Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment
Other Types of Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
Neurologists and neurosurgeons have explored various ways of grafting dopamine-producing cells in the brain of those with Parkinson’s disease, rather than trying to correct the neurotransmitter imbalance with drugs. There is research using stem cells for this purpose.
Another surgical technique creates lesions in the globus pallidus or thalamus. These are the parts of the brain involved in Parkinson's disease. This was successful for many years but has mostly been replaced by deep brain stimulation (DBS). In this procedure, a wire is placed deep inside the brain in a specific location depending on the symptoms that need to be treated. DBS can provide dramatic improvements in many people.
Scientists are also investigating the use of glial cell-derived nerve growth factor to treat Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases. This substance is produced naturally by tissues throughout the body. Some experiments indicate that injections of this nerve growth factor may help preserve and even restore nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord -- specifically those that produce dopamine and that help initiate muscle movement. Time will tell if this and other research will be beneficial.
Some treatments focus on the effects of the disorder, rather than the causes. Your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist to restore normal body alignment, enhance balance and motor responses, and improve the ability to initiate motion. A physical therapist may also teach muscle-strengthening exercises to help with speaking or swallowing.
In many Parkinson's patients, a weakening of social ties because of physical difficulties can lead to depression. Antidepressants can help. In addition, the American Parkinson Disease Association can provide information about support groups and exercise classes in your area -- valuable sources of companionship.