Preventing Dyskinesia in Parkinson's Disease

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on April 14, 2022
3 min read

When you have Parkinson's disease, you might have sudden, uncontrolled, often jerky movements. These twitches or twists can happen in your face, arms, legs, or upper half of your body.

The movements are different for everyone. Some people have them all day, while others have them before or after they take their medicine. Dyskinesia often starts a few years after treatment with the drug levodopa.

Whether you already have dyskinesia or are looking to avoid it, there are things you can do to prevent or ease the uncontrolled movements.

Levodopa changes. Your doctor may suggest that you change the amount of medicine you take or how often you take it. That way you can get enough of the drug to control Parkinson’s symptoms, but not so much that it triggers dyskinesia. Sometimes just a small change can make a big difference.

Try other medications. Other types of Parkinson’s medicines, including dopamine agonists, COMT inhibitors, or MAO-B inhibitors, may help you prevent or at least delay dyskinesia. Doctors sometimes prescribe them instead of levodopa or in addition to it. Although these drugs are less likely to cause movement issues, they often cause other symptoms, like nausea and hallucinations. They may also prescibe  amantadine and clozapine.

Ease your stress. Stress can make dyskinesia worse, so try to find ways to relax. You may want to try massage or yoga, read a book, or talk to a friend. See what works for you. When you find something that helps you stay calm, try to make it part of your everyday routine.

Stay active. Physical activity has many benefits when you have Parkinson's. It can improve your balance and flexibility and help you with walking and hand strength. But studies show that exercise can also help control tremors and other uncontrolled movements. Talk to your doctor about what kind of activity might be best for you. Options might include walking, dancing, aerobic classes, and tai chi.

Watch what you eat. Sometimes your diet can affect your medicine and how it works. And that can have an impact on dyskinesia. For some people, protein like meat, beans, and dairy products can slow down how much of the drug levodopa the body absorbs. But don't cut protein from your diet. Instead, try taking your medicine 30 minutes or more before you eat. That gives it time to start working.

If you feel sick when you take your medicine on an empty stomach, have a snack like a few plain crackers. You might also want to try taking your medicine with lots of water to avoid nausea or other side effects.

Think about surgery. If you have serious dyskinesia, your doctor might suggest a procedure called deep brain stimulation (DBS). Your doctor puts a small device inside your brain that senses electrical signals to the parts of the brain involved in Parkinson’s symptoms. It might be an option for people who've had Parkinson's for 4 years or more and who take medicine, but still have times when drugs don't control their symptoms. It can ease or stop dyskinesia and help with Parkinson’s symptoms, too.