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Parkinson's Disease and Lightheadedness

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When a person moves from lying down to standing, sometimes their blood pressure will suddenly drop and they will feel lightheaded. This is called orthostatic hypotension and is common in people with Parkinson's disease. Orthostatic hypotension can be severe in people with certain forms of the disease. Orthostatic hypotension can be caused by the disease itself or by the medications used to treat Parkinson's disease. Almost any of the commonly prescribed Parkinson's disease drugs can cause or worsen lightheadedness.

How Is Orthostatic Hypotension Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing lightheadedness after standing and think you might have orthostatic hypotension, call your doctor so that you can be evaluated. Your doctor should check your blood pressure when you are lying down, seated and then again when standing up.

When Is Orthostatic Hypotension Treated?

Not all forms of orthostatic hypotension require treatment. If you experience a drop in blood pressure when you stand up, but have no other symptoms you probably won't need treatment. Sometimes all it takes is sitting on the edge of the bed for a minute or steadying yourself for a moment after you stand up. But, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded to the point where you might lose your balance or lose consciousness, you will need treatment.

Because some drugs can cause severe orthostatic hypotension, your doctor may first try reducing some of your medicine or may switch you to another type of medicine. If you have significant symptoms of orthostatic hypotension, and it is not possible to change your medications, then your doctor will likely treat the orthostatic hypotension itself.

How Is Orthostatic Hypotension Treated?

Northera (droxidopa) capsules are approved for the treatment of orthostatic hypotension. Common side effects of Northera include headache, dizziness, nausea, high blood pressure, and fatigue.

Another approach in treating orthostatic hypotension is to decrease the pooling of blood in the legs with the use of special stockings called compression stockings. These tight stockings "compress" the veins in the legs, helping to reduce swelling and increase blood flow. There now are a number of companies that make these stockings in a wide variety of sizes, and they usually can be found at stores that sell medical supplies, as well as at some pharmacies.

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