Understanding Parkinson’s disease, treatment options

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily affects movement. It develops gradually, often starting with barely noticeable tremors in one hand. As the disease progresses, symptoms become more pronounced, impacting various aspects of daily life. While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, several treatment options are available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

While the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown, several risk factors have been identified:

Age: Parkinson’s disease typically develops in individuals over the age of 60, although it can occur at a younger age as well.

Genetics: Certain genetic mutations and family history of the disease increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Environmental factors: Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Gender: Men are slightly more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.

Head trauma: Sustaining a head injury or concussion may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease later in life.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person and can change over time. Some common symptoms include:

Tremors: Tremors, or shaking, usually begin in a limb, often the hand or fingers, and can worsen over time.

Bradykinesia: This refers to slowness of movement and can result in difficulty with tasks such as walking, getting up from a chair, or performing fine motor activities.

Muscle stiffness: Rigidity or stiffness in the muscles can make movement uncomfortable and affect range of motion.

Postural instability: Balance and coordination problems can lead to difficulty maintaining an upright posture and an increased risk of falls.

Non-motor symptoms: Parkinson’s disease can also cause non-motor symptoms such as cognitive changes, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and fatigue.

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, treatment aims to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Therapy services offered at Riverwood Healthcare Center can help someone with Parkinson’s disease live better with this disease.

Physical therapy can help with balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and walking quality and speed. Occupational therapy can help with daily living skills, energy management, hand function and fine motor skills, and memory and cognition. Speech therapy can help with memory and cognition, swallowing, speech, and voice.

LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) therapy is a specialized therapy program designed to improve voice and speech and physical functioning in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

“We offer LSVT BIG®, a program that addresses the gross and fine motor deficits for patients with Parkinson’s,” explains Monica Bostrom, Riverwood physical therapist. “People with Parkinson’s disease often move differently, with gestures and actions that become smaller and slower. LSVT BIG helps improve these movements.”

Amanda Bostrom, speech-language pathologist at Riverwood, adds: “We also offer LSVT LOUD®, a program that improves the volume and quality of speech. LSVT LOUD helps people with Parkinson’s disease use their voice at a more normal loudness level to improve communicative effectiveness.”

Therapy services are available with a referral from a primary care provider. For a therapy services appointment at Riverwood, call 218-927-5580.

Other treatment options may include medications. Dopamine replacement medications can help alleviate motor symptoms by replenishing dopamine levels in the brain.

While Parkinson’s disease presents challenges, there are key strategies individuals can adopt to live well with the condition.

Stay active. Regular exercise can help improve mobility, balance, and overall well-being.

Maintain a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support overall health and may help manage symptoms.

Stay engaged. Staying socially connected and participating in activities that bring joy and fulfillment can help combat feelings of isolation and depression.

Educate yourself. Understanding Parkinson’s disease and staying informed about treatment options can empower individuals to take an active role in managing their condition.

Seek support. Joining a support group or connecting with others living with Parkinson’s disease can provide valuable emotional support and practical advice.

With proper management and support, individuals can continue to lead fulfilling lives. By understanding the risk factors, recognizing symptoms, exploring treatment options, and adopting strategies for living well, those with Parkinson’s disease can optimize their quality of life and maintain independence for as long as possible.