Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive movement disorder that strikes adults, mostly over the age of 55.
Central Maine Healthcare has a team of top experts that offer Parkinson’s treatment: neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, speech therapists, and physical and occupational therapists, along with nurses and professional support staff.
How Parkinson’s Works
When you have Parkinson’s, your brain can’t produce dopamine, a brain chemical that helps control your muscle movements. Gradually, you lose brain cells in a part of your brain. The disease gets worse over the years, but new treatments help keep your symptoms at bay, possibly for decades.
The first symptoms you’ll notice are likely to be tremors in your hands, and a kind of stiffness or rigidity setting in. You’ll move more slowly, and your handwriting will become small and cramped-looking. Eventually, everything about you seems to weaken—you’ll use less facial expression, speak at a lower volume, lose your sense of smell and become depressed or anxious. You might feel “stuck” when you stand up and try to walk.
Although your symptoms would undoubtedly make you feel uncomfortable, Parkinson’s won’t necessarily shorten your life. You can still live a full, happy life with well-managed Parkinson’s using therapies at Central Maine.
Diagnosing and Treating Parkinson’s
As with any ailment, the first step in making a diagnosis is documenting your complete medical history. From there, your team will assess your symptoms: one will study your facial expressions. Another will watch the way you walk, noting whether your arms swing normally, and test your balance. You’ll be watched for tremors and may undergo a blood test and MRI scan, mostly to rule out other possible disorders.
Parkinson’s doesn’t interfere with your daily activities in the early stages, so your symptoms must be evaluated with the greatest of care. They will determine your treatment:
Since your Parkinson’s evolved because you don’t produce enough dopamine, your doctor will almost surely prescribe a dopamine replacement. L-Dopa is the most widely prescribed drug that mimics dopamine. If it’s successful you’ll notice that your tremors have improved, the rigidity eases up, and you don’t move so slowly anymore. If some of your symptoms need medication to get better — such as depression, anxiety or sleeplessness — you will be prescribed remedies for those symptoms as well.
Exercise is important in keeping your muscles strong, especially strength training and stretching. You’ll have an exercise therapist on your team who will work with you to reach the fitness level you need.
If you’ve had difficulty speaking, a speech therapist will be on your team and coach you through making correct vowel and consonant sounds. This aspect of your recovery alone will play a key role in your confidence and sociability, and boost your faith in your productive, healthy future.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
In this procedure, electrodes are placed in certain areas of your brain, and a device called an “impulse generator” is implanted under your collarbone. The surgeon will run a thin wire between the generator and the electrodes. Then, the device will send small electric impulses up to your brain, triggering activity in the part of your brain that isn’t active enough because you’re not producing dopamine. DBS isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s, but it can relieve your symptoms and greatly enhance your quality of life.