Symptoms of Parkinsons Disease

The earliest symptom of Parkinson’s Disease is most often limb tremors, particularly when the body is at rest. For most people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, their first warning comes when a leg suddenly starts shaking while they’re laying in bed, and won’t stop. The tremor can involve a hand, a foot, a leg or an arm. It usually affects only one side of the body at first, and it may be years before it affects any more than that one limb.

While the tremor is the most commonly reported early symptom, in some people it never develops at all. Other common symptoms include bradykinesia – slow movement. It may feel like your hand or your arm is just not acting in response to your intention to move it for a few seconds. You go to move your hand and it just doesn’t respond.

A more severe expression of the disturbance of communication between your brain and body is akinesia – the inability to move a part of your body. Parkinson’s may also cause rigidity of the limbs and a fixed facial expression as the muscles of the face become less responsive to the messages from the brain.

Deep Brain Stimulation Parkinsons Disease Treatment

One of the newer treatments for Parkinson’s disease is a surgical procedure that implants a thin, metal electrode into one of several spots in the brain and attaches it to a computerized pulse generator similar to a heart pacemaker. The treatment is called Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS for short, and it’s one of the most promising treatments for long term control of the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s. According to a recent study that followed 79 patients who’d had bilateral (both sides) DBS performed for two years after the surgery, DBS

    “…improves the patient’s quality of life, and these improvements are maintained in the long term. In addition, improvements in quality of life are strongly related to improvements in functional ability, particularly that affected by bradykinesia.”

In addition, researchers found that the patients who participated were taking lower levels of medication (or none), but showed significant improvement in the areas of tremors, rigidity and balance and control.

Parkinson’s Disease Complications

Around 50% of people with Parkinson’s disease are also diagnosed with clinical depression. In many of them, the depression may occur months or years before Parkinson’s is diagnosed. While the anxiety and physical problems associated with having Parkinson’s disease are stressful and frustrating, most doctors agree that the depression that often accompanies Parkinson’s isn’t a reaction to the diagnosis. Instead, they believe it is due to the changes in the brain that the disease causes. Proper treatment with antidepressants can alleviate the symptoms of depression.

A smaller percentage of those with Parkinson’s ultimately develop dementia. This can be one of the most difficult complications for the family to deal with. Dementia is marked by memory loss, impaired judgment and personality changes. It is associated with the later stages of Parkinson’s. Depression symptoms may also mimic dementia. If that’s the case, the symptoms may disappear with treatment of the depression.

Parkinsons Disease Alternative Treatments

To supplement standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease, many people have discovered that there are alternative and auxiliary treatments that can help manage their symptoms and give them a better quality of life for a longer period of time. While traditional practitioners who are schooled in Western methods tend to be skeptical of standard Eastern and other types of therapy, insurance companies are increasingly inclined to pay for alternative and complementary therapies – which says a great deal about their possible effectiveness. Even most Western doctors agree that some of these treatments can help preserve function in many patients with Parkinson’s disease.


Eating a healthy diet is important for anyone, but those with Parkinson’s disease may have some particular concerns about diet. In particular, there is some evidence that high protein intake may interfere with the actions of L-dopa, the primary medication used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Dopamine Agonist Drugs

This class of drugs encompasses the older dopamine agonists:

    bromocriptine (Parlodel)
    pergolide (Permax)

As well as the newer drugs:

    pramipexole (Mirapex)
    ropinirole (Requip)
    cabergoline (Dostinex)
    lisuride (Dopergine)

These dopamine agonist drugs are not changed into dopamine inside the brain, unlike levodopa. They mimic the effects of dopamine inside the brain and allow the brain neurons to act as though sufficient amounts of dopamine were present. Dopamine agonists may be used in addition to levodopa therapy. In younger adults, dopamine agonists may be used instead of levodopa.

The various dopamine agonists vary in chemical structure, the range of side-effects that they cause, and their duration or length of action. For example, lisuride has a short duration, while pergolide has the longest duration.

The side-effects and benefits of a particular drug can vary from person to person. If one drug does not reduce symptoms or causes unwanted side-effects, then another dopamine agonist may be better suited.

Dopamine Agonists – Side-effects

Levodopa or L-Dopa

The drug levodopa, also known as L-dopa, has been used since the 1960’s as the primary drug treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.

Levodopa is a natural substance that is found in both plants and animals. The compound is actually a precursor to dopamine, and unlike dopamine, it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, when given to people with Parkinson’s, levodopa is converted into dopamine by nerve cells in the brain.

When administered on its own, blood enzymes, known as AADCs, break down much of the levodopa prior it reaching the brain. As a result, only a small amount of levodopa crosses the blood-brain barrier and reaches the brain. However, combining levodopa with an decarboxylase enzyme inhibitor, such as carbidopa (Sinemet, or benserazide), allows more levodopa to reach the brain and helps reduce some of the side-effects of this therapy. Sinemet CR is a prolonged-release version of this drug.

Parkinsons Disease Medications

Parkinson’s Disease results from the dopamine producing neurons in the substantia nigra becoming damaged or destroyed. An obvious treatment is to supplement the missing dopamine with medication.

Unfortunately, treatment with dopamine itself isn’t possible, because dopamine doesn’t cross the body’s blood-brain barrier. The tightly packed cells in the walls of the brain’s capillaries prevent certain substances from crossing into the brain, including dopamine. As a result, dopamine cannot be directly administered to a patient to boost their dopamine levels to reduce or reverse the effects of Parkinson’s.

However, a range of other medications and treatments can be used to treat Parkinson’s. Medications can also be used to manage problems cause by various Parkinson’s symptoms, including walking, general movement, and tremors by increasing the brain’s supply of dopamine.

Lifestyle Changes for Parkinsons Sufferers

Physical therapy and lifestyle changes should be looked on as the front-line defense against Parkinson’s. When physical therapy and lifestyle changes are not enough to combat or reduce the effects of Parkinson’s, your doctor will likely recommend certain medications, either alone or in combination. Eventually, as the disease progresses, a surgical procedure may be required.

Healthy Eating

A healthy diet and regular exercise are beneficial treatments for many health issues, and Parkinson’s is no exception to this rule. If you are suffering from Parkinson’s, ensure that you eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. These foods contain natural anti-oxidants that help protect against free radical damage. They are also high in fiber, which is important for helping prevent constipation.

If you take a fiber supplement, such as psyllium powder, Metamucil or Citrucel, be sure to introduce it gradually and drink plenty of fluids daily. Otherwise, your constipation actually may become worse. If you find that fiber helps your symptoms, use it on a regular basis for the best results.