Parkinson’s Disease


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive and chronic neurodegenerative disease of the brain that leads to abnormalities in movement and muscle tone. The classic signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremors at rest, slowing of movement, instability, and motor stiffness or weakness. This movement disorder can affect the performance of daily activities and lead to sleep problems, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. There are an estimated 10 million people worldwide who suffer from Parkinson’s disease with 1 million diagnosed in the United States alone. It usually strikes people after the age of 65, but much younger people have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. While the disease can be very difficult to live with, many people with PD live healthy and fulfilling lives with a supportive social network, medications, and a strong relationship with their healthcare team.

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Motor symptoms:

  • Rigidity or stiffness of the muscles
  • Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
  • Tremor (rhythmic shaking)
  • Trouble with balance, posture, and coordination
  • Trouble walking
  • Difficulty in initiating movements

Non-motor symptoms:

  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety

Risk Factors

  • Aging -average age of onset is 60
  • Gender – men more than women
  • Family history of Parkinson’s disease
  • Exposure to herbicides and pesticides
  • Exposure to Agent Orange
  • Industrial exposure to solvents, heavy metals, and detergents
  • History of head trauma (repeated injuries)


Your doctor will first ask you your medical history, including family history, and ask for you to describe any signs or symptoms you are experiencing. No test conclusively diagnoses Parkinson’s disease. Instead, physicians use neurological and physical examinations along with other diagnostic tests to diagnose PD. These tests include:

Blood tests. These will help to rule out other causes of symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s disease.

Dopamine transporter scan (DaTscan). Also called a SPECT (specific single-photon emission computerized tomography) scan. The DaTscan measures the levels of dopamine transporters in the brain.

Imaging tests. Also used to rule out other diseases or disorders. These tests include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography scan (PET), and an ultrasound of the brain.

Medication. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe a Parkinson’s disease medication to see if it improves symptoms. Improvement signals to the physician that Parkinson’s disease is the cause of neurological dysfunction.


Treatment involves drugs that mimic the effect of dopamine in the brain. Other medications can also be used to lessen symptoms. Surgery, or deep brain stimulation, can be considered but is not usually tried until medications have failed or side effects have become too advanced. Treatments for Parkinson’s disease include the following medications:

Amantadine. This drug is prescribed in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease to treat symptoms. The medication gives relief for a short time and helps to control involuntary movements.

Anticholinergics. These drugs are prescribed to help control the tremors caused by low dopamine levels.

Carbidopa-levodopa. This drug is converted into dopamine once it reaches the brain and helps to improve symptoms caused by dopamine deficiency. It is available in pillform but also can be administered via inhalation or infusion (administered through a feeding tube).

Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors. Used to extend the effects of levodopa by blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine.

Dopamine agonists. This type of drug lasts longer than the carbidopa-levodopa combination drug. Dopamine agonists mimic dopamine and its effects on the brain.

MAO-B (monoamine oxidase type B) inhibitors. This drug contains an enzyme that our brain uses to break down chemicals, including dopamine. They inhibit this enzyme which stops the break down of dopamine and increases levels over time.

Alternative Treatments and Home Remedies

Many people who live with Parkinson’s disease will explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment options to help them manage symptoms while improving their quality of life. Complementary medicine can typically be used in combination with traditional medicine. Talk to your doctor before you take any supplements or try a new treatment method to make sure it is safe and does not interfere with your medications. Different CAM treatment options for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Art therapy
  • CBD oil
  • Massage
  • Medical marijuana
  • Meditation
  • Music therapy
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga

Lifestyle Changes

  • Limit sugar intake
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Stay well-hydrated
  • Exercise to increase hunger
  • Practice excellent dental hygiene


Downward, E. (2020, November). Complementary and alternative therapies. Retrieved from Parkinson’s

Gleeson, R. (2020, March 02). Exploring alternative therapies for Parkinson’s disease. Retrieved from University of Michigan Health:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Parkinson’s disease risk factors and causes. Retrieved from Johns Hopkins Medicine:

National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 16). Parkinson’s disease. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health:

Standaert, D. G., et. al. (2019). Parkinson’s disease handbook. APDA. Retrieved from American Parkinson’s Disease Association:

Zigmond, M. J., & Burke, R. E. (2002). Pathophysiology of Parkinson’s Disease. Neuropsychopharmacology: The fifth generation of progress, 123, 1781-1793. Retrieved from American College of Neuropsychopharmacology:


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