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Parkinson's Disease

Drugs

04/24/2007

Question:

Why are Parkinson`s Disease patients given drugs that cause the symptoms that they are suppose to relieve? When side effects are intolerable what can be done.

Answer:

Parkinson's disease is associated with a loss of brain dopamine, and medications used to treat Parkinson's disease help increase brain dopamine by various mechanisms.  By increasing brain dopamine levels, these medications can help decrease the Parkinson's motor symptoms of slowness, rigidity, and tremor.  

Unfortunately, these medications can also work outside the brain and cause various side effects.  Some of the more common side effects are upset stomach and lightheadedness.  The upset stomach can sometimes be resolved by taking medications with food.  Another conservative approach for dealing with upset stomach is using ginger products, such as ginger ale or ginger snap cookies.  It is important to keep well hydrated to minimize a fall in blood pressure causing lightheadedness.

Another strategy to help decrease side effects is by starting a medication at a small dose and slowly building it up over several weeks until the desired dose.  This schedule should be developed with the help of the physician prescribing the medication.     

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Response by:

Punit  Agrawal, DO Punit Agrawal, DO
Assistant Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University