Parkinson’s Disease Guide
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects control over your movements. It’s caused by a lack of dopamine, a chemical that helps the nerve cells in your brain communicate with each other. When dopamine is missing from certain areas of the brain, the messages that tell your body how to move are lost or distorted. This can lead to symptoms such as shaking, stiffness and slow movement. There’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease. But proper treatment can help ease symptoms and allow you to live a full, active life.
There is no single test for Parkinson’s disease. The diagnosis is based on your symptoms, health history and a physical exam. You may also have tests to help rule out other problems. These may include blood tests to look for diseases that cause similar symptoms. They can also include brain-imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan of the brain.
It may take many years for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to become severe. But it’s important to plan now for the changes that will come. Key areas to focus on include budgeting for medical, household and long-term care expenses. You should also talk with your family about the type of care you may need in the future.
- Discuss legal and financial issues: Financial and legal planning is always a good idea. But it’s even more key now. Who will handle finances if you’re no longer able to make decisions? These issues can often be complex. You may wish to get advice from professionals. These include financial planners, social workers and estate-planning attorneys.
- Advance directives and living wills: These documents spell out the kinds of medical treatment you do—or don’t—want in the future. Keep a copy of these papers with your medical records. Also make sure your family knows about your wishes.
- Durable power of attorney: This document transfers financial and legal power to a family member or other person who can make decisions in your best interest. It can become effective right away or only under conditions you specify.
- Dementia is a possibility: People with Parkinson’s disease have an increased risk of developing dementia. This is a condition that makes it harder to remember, reason, and communicate. It also requires a much greater level of care. Settling important issues now can help you and your loved ones feel more secure about the future.
- Medicine: Medicines are the most important treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Most types replace missing dopamine or imitate the way dopamine works in the brain. This helps you have better control over your movements. If needed, your healthcare provider may also prescribe medicine for constipation, sleep problems and other symptoms.
- Activity and exercise: Staying active is another vital part of treatment. Regular exercise helps keep your muscles strong and loose. It’s also crucial for overall health. If you’re already active, stick with your routine as much as you can. If you’re not active, now’s the time to start. Ask your provider which activities are best for you. It also helps to do activities that engage your mind. These include hobbies, crafts, reading and socializing with friends.
- Surgery: Surgery isn't a cure. But it may be an option for people whose symptoms are no longer well controlled by medicine:
- Deep brain stimulation. This is the most common type of surgery. And it's the type of surgery that's preferred in most cases. A thin wire is implanted in the part of the brain that controls movement. Electrical pulses are then sent through the wire. This can help disrupt brain activity that causes symptoms.
- Lesioning (pallidotomy and thalamotomy). This procedure surgery a small amount of tissue in a certain part of the brain. This can help you have better control over your movements by blocking activity in the brain that causes symptoms.
- Hospice Services: Medical care, treatment and emotional support services for people with terminal illnesses or who are at the end of their lives to help keep them comfortable and pain free. Support services are also available for family members or caregivers.
- Neurology Services: Services to diagnose or treat conditions, illnesses or diseases of the brain, spinal cord or nervous system.
- Therapy services such as Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy: Therapy services to help with daily living, and promoting mobility and function.
- The Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline can help answer your Parkinson’s disease questions. Call 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636) or visit the Parkinson’s Foundation website.
- Rise Above Parkinson’s helps those living with Parkinson's disease access the services and support they need to rise above their diagnosis. Learn more about the programs and services offered by this organization.
- Learn more about treating Parkinson’s disease and planning for the future with Parkinson’s disease through the Krames Health Library.
- Sunshine Health Community Resource Database: Find more free resources through Sunshine Health’s Community Resource Database. Enter your ZIP code to search for help with food, shelter, healthcare, money, school, jobs and more.
- Sunshine Health offers Case Management for care coordination needs and support with the management of your condition.