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Parkinson’s Disease

Dr. K. Y. Iyer

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Nidanam (Diagnosis)
Diagnosis is based primarily on signs and symptoms. Resting tremors (tremors which occur when the body is at rest and there is no voluntary initiation of motion) along with rigidity, loss of facial expression or gait abnormalities strongly suggests the disease. As only 70% of patients exhibit tremors, the other 30% of the cases are more difficult to diagnose . This condition may be confused with other causes of tremors, depression and gait abnormalities.

A neurologist who can evaluate symptoms and their severity usually diagnoses Parkinson’s disease. No test can clearly identify the disease. Tests, such as brain scans, can help doctors decide if a patient has true Parkinson’s disease or some other disorder that resembles it. Some experts believe Parkinson’s disease is something of an “iceberg; phenomenon,” lurking undetected in as many as 20 people for each known Parkinson’s patient.

The most common signs and symptoms of Parkinsons Disease
  • Tremors
  • Muscular Rigity
  • Mask Face/Staring
  • Festinating Gait
Is there any treatment?
At present, there is no cure for PD, but a variety of medications provide dramatic relief from the symptoms.  Usually, patients are given levodopa combined with carbidopa.  Carbidopa delays the conversion of levodopa into dopamine until it reaches the brain.  Nerve cells can use levodopa to make dopamine and replenish the brain’s dwindling supply.  Although levodopa helps at least three-quarters of parkinsonian cases, not all symptoms respond equally to the drug. Bradykinesia and rigidity respond best, while tremor may be only marginally reduced. Problems with balance and other symptoms may not be alleviated at all.  Anticholinergics may help control tremor and rigidity.  Other drugs, such as bromocriptine, pramipexole, and ropinirole, mimic the role of dopamine in the brain, causing the neurons to react as they would to dopamine.  An antiviral drug, amantadine, also appears to reduce symptoms.  In May 2006, the FDA approved rasagiline to be used along with levodopa for patients with advanced PD or as a single-drug treatment for early PD. 

In some cases, surgery may be appropriate if the disease doesn’t respond to drugs. A therapy called deep brain stimulation (DBS) has now been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In DBS, electrodes are implanted into the brain and connected to a small electrical device called a pulse generator that can be externally programmed. DBS can reduce the need for levodopa and related drugs, which in turn decreases the involuntary movements called dyskinesias that are a common side effect of levodopa. It also helps to alleviate fluctuations of symptoms and to reduce tremors, slowness of movements, and gait problems. DBS requires careful programming of the stimulator device in order to work correctly.

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