The decision to start taking medicine, and which medicine to take, will be different for each person. Medicine is usually started when your symptoms become disabling or disrupt your daily activities.
Symptoms change as the disease progresses. Because of this, your doctor will adjust your medicine to deal with the symptoms as they appear.
Medicines often improve symptoms, but they also may cause side effects. It may take some time to find the best combination of medicines for you.
Several medicines may be used at different stages of the disease:
- Levodopa and carbidopa
- Dopamine agonists (for example, pramipexole or ropinirole)
- COMT inhibitors (entacapone, tolcapone)
- MAO-B inhibitors (rasagiline, selegiline)
- Anticholinergic agents (for example, benztropine or trihexyphenidyl)
Levodopa is thought to be the most effective drug for controlling symptoms. But many doctors prescribe dopamine agonists in the beginning of the disease. This is because after a few years, levodopa can cause motor complications (times when the medicine suddenly stops working or when you have uncontrollable jerking movements). Talk to your doctor about which medicines are best for you.
Although it's always important to follow your doctor's instructions when you take medicines, it's especially vital when you have Parkinson's.
Increasing, decreasing, or stopping the medicines you are taking may cause big changes in your symptoms and can be dangerous. Even if a medicine doesn't seem to be working, when you stop taking it, your symptoms of Parkinson's disease may be worse.
Taking medicine with food
Later in the disease, taking the medicines at least 1 hour before meals (and at least 2 hours after meals) may help them work best.
Some medicines for Parkinson's disease don't work as well if you take them at the same time you eat food with protein in it, such as meat or cheese. The protein can block the medicine and keep it from working as well as it should.