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Coping with Parkinson’s Disease

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What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative (degeneration of the nervous system) disorder according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. The U.S. National Library of Medicine calls Parkinson’s disease a “movement disorder.” Symptoms of the disease may cause trouble walking, talking, and doing simple tasks. Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal but can have serious complications according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

What are Parkinson’s disease symptoms?

Parkinson’s disease symptoms start gradually, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Parkinson’s disease symptoms often begin on one side of the body and later affect both sides.

Symptoms include:

  • Trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Stiffness of arms, legs and trunk
  • Slow movement
  • Bad balance and coordination

How can I cope with Parkinson’s disease?

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and the cause is largely unknown. However, treatment for Parkinson’s disease may relieve symptoms.

Medication: According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, medications sometimes help Parkinson’s disease symptoms “dramatically.” According to the Mayo Clinic, medicines for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa (Rytary, Sinemet) which is a natural chemical that is converted to dopamine in the brain
  • Dopamine agonists (Mirapex, Requip, Neupro) which mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain and last longer than levodopa
  • MAO-B inhibiters (Eldepryl, Zelapar) which help prevent the breakdown of brain dopamine
  • COMT inhibitors (Comtan) which prolong the effect of levodopa by blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine
  • Anticholinergics which help control Parkinson’s disease tremors
  • Amantadine which may provide short-term relief of early stage Parkinson’s disease symptoms

Surgical procedures: In deep brain stimulation (DBS) a surgeon places electrodes in a specific part of your brain. The electrodes help send electrical pulses to your brain and may reduce some Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Deep brain stimulation is often useful for people with advanced Parkinson’s disease who don’t have a good response to medication.

Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes may help you cope with Parkinson’s disease. For example, a diet high in fiber and drinking lots of liquids may help alleviate constipation common in Parkinson’s disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Exercise may increase muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Parkinson’s disease may have a negative effect on your balance and exercise may improve your balance.

Occupational therapy: Daily activities may be difficult for people with Parkinson’s disease. An occupational therapist may show you techniques to make eating, bathing and dressing easier.

Alternative medicine: Alternative medicine may not be covered by insurance but may be helpful in relieving Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Alternative medicine according to the Mayo Clinic includes:

  • Yoga to increase flexibility and balance
  • Meditation to reduce stress and pain and improve your sense of well-being
  • Tai chi to improve balance and muscle strength
  • Massage to reduce muscle tension
  • Acupuncture which may reduce pain
  • Supplements such as coenzyme Q10 may be beneficial in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Music or art therapy may help walking, speech, and your mood.
  • Pet therapy may increase your flexibility and movement.

 

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