Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Parkinson's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Parkinson's Disease: Movement Problems From Levodopa - Topic Overview

Movement problems (motor fluctuations) are the most common complication of long-term levodopa use. The majority of people who take levodopa develop these problems within 5 to 10 years. The main types of levodopa-related motor fluctuations include:

  • The wearing-off effect. Wearing-off periods occur when the effects of a single dose of levodopa do not last as long as they used to. Control of motor symptoms decreases as the effects of the medicine wear off, and symptoms do not improve until the next dose of levodopa is taken. These motor fluctuations are easy to predict based on the timing of each dose of medicine.
  • Dyskinesias. Dyskinesias are sudden, uncontrollable, often jerky or writhing movements. They may affect the head, neck, arms, and legs, or other parts of the body. Dyskinesias are especially common in younger people with Parkinson's disease.
  • The on-off response. "On" and "off" periods occur without warning as a result of fluctuating dopamine levels in the brain. The symptoms are similar to the motor problems that occur as a result of the wearing-off effect, but they are harder to predict and more difficult to treat. An "off" period usually occurs suddenly, over seconds or minutes, and the person may freeze. In contrast, uncontrollable movements may occur during the "on" periods.

Motor fluctuations sometimes can be reduced or delayed by changing the schedule and amount of levodopa. Other medicines may be added to levodopa to help with motor fluctuations, such as dopamine agonists, COMT inhibitors, or MAO-B inhibitors. Increasingly, doctors are using dopamine agonists for initial treatment of Parkinson's disease, especially in younger people, to delay the development of motor fluctuations that eventually occur with long-term levodopa therapy.

Recommended Related to Parkinson's

Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Symptoms

Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder that progresses slowly. Some people will first notice a sense of weakness, difficulty walking, and stiff muscles. Others may notice a tremor of the head or hands. Parkinson's is a progressive disorder and the symptoms gradually worsen. The general symptoms of Parkinson's disease include: Slowness of voluntary movements, especially in the initiation of such movements as walking or rolling over in bed Decreased facial expression, monotonous sp...

Read the Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Symptoms article > >

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Parkinson's Disease: Movement Problems From Levodopa Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Parkinsons disease illustration
    Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
    hands on walker
    How does the disease progress?
    man with serious expression
    8 common questions and answers.
    intelligence quotient illustration
    What are the advantages of DBS?
    Parkinsons Disease Medications
    Questions Doctor Parkinsons
    Eating Right
    Parkinsons Exercise
    daughter consoling depressed mother
    senior man's hands
    Parkinsons Daily

    WebMD Special Sections