Surgery for Parkinson’s Disease

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) using a surgically placed device in the brain has been used to control some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease when they cannot be controlled by medication alone. This approach is beneficial for some people with Parkinson’s disease, but usually people who have DBS still need to take some prescription medications even after the procedure. There are a number of pros and cons to DBS.

Side Effects of Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

There are a few common side effects that are caused by the medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease. If your medications are effective in reducing your Parkinson’s disease symptoms, your doctor might be able to decrease your dose or switch to another prescription.

But, even if you experience side effects, you will probably not be able to completely discontinue taking medications for Parkinson’s disease, or else your symptoms will return. This means that you may need to take additional prescription medications to control the side effects that you are experiencing. The most common side effects of Parkinson’s medications are:

  • Hallucinations – Hallucinations are false visions or sounds. Many medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease can cause an imbalance of dopamine, resulting in excessive dopamine activity in the brain, which produces hallucinations. Some people who experience hallucinations as a side effect of Parkinson’s medications may need to take antipsychotic medications to reduce the hallucinations.
  • Dyskinesia – Dyskinesias are involuntary movements that often result from long-term use of Parkinson’s disease medications. Dyskinesias may occur as sudden movements, and may also manifest as slow, writhing movements. Dyskinesias can be bothersome, but they also may be physically uncomfortable or painful. There are prescription medications that can reduce dyskinesias, and sometimes DBS is used as way to reduce the need for Parkinson’s medications.
  • Wearing off – Many people who have Parkinson’s disease notice that the symptoms become worse in between medication doses. This experience may be described as ‘wearing off’, ‘off time’ or ‘off syndrome,’ and it is managed by adjusting medication doses and timing, as well as by adding medications that prolong the action of dopamine. Surgery is among the approaches used to manage wearing off.

Is There a Cure for Parkinson’s Disease?

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. The medications, surgery, and therapeutic interventions are aimed at controlling symptoms. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition, which means that it naturally gets worse over time.

If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, this means that you will very likely need to have a surgical procedure or take medication for the long term. Often, because of the way the disease progresses over time, many individuals who are living with Parkinson’s disease need changes in the dose or type of prescriptions and therapy over time.

New Directions in Parkinson’s Disease

Stem cell therapy and gene therapy are two of the new concepts in Parkinson’s disease research. Thus far, these approaches have not become accessible to patients, except for possibly in a research setting.

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