Although there's currently no cure for Parkinson's, treatments are available to help reduce symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible. These include:
- supportive therapies, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy
- deep brain stimulation (DBS).
If you have mild symptoms of Parkinson’s, your doctor might not recommend medication and instead focus on supportive therapy and lifestyle improvements such as exercise and relaxation. As your symptoms progress, you will be prescribed medication.
There are several therapies that can make living with Parkinson's easier and help you deal with your symptoms on a day-to-day basis. These include the following:
- Physiotherapy to relieve muscle stiffness and joint pain through movement (manipulation) and exercise.
- Occupational therapy to work out practical solutions to difficulties in your everyday life, such as dressing yourself or getting to the local shops.
- Speech and language therapy to help with swallowing difficulties and problems with speech.
- Diet advice, as making dietary changes can help improve some symptoms. These changes can include:
- increasing the amount of fibre in your diet and making sure you're drinking enough fluid to reduce constipation
- increasing the amount of salt in your diet and eating small, frequent meals to avoid problems with low blood pressure, such as dizziness when you stand up quickly
- making changes to your diet to avoid unintentional weight loss.
Medicines do not prevent Parkinson's but they aim to improve your daily functioning. Medicines are usually started when symptoms disrupt your daily life. Everybody's experience of Parkinson's is different and your healthcare team will work with you to find the best treatments for your particular symptoms. Depending on your symptoms and responses to medicines, you may need to try a combination of medicines, and your medicines may change over time as your symptoms change. Examples of medicines for Parkinson’s include levodopa + benserazide, levodopa + carbidopa, ropinirole, pramipexole, entacapone, tolcapone, selegiline and amantadine.
Read about medicines for Parkinson's, including tips for when taking them and medicines to avoid.
Your doctor will also prescribe medication and other treatments as necessary to help you manage other symptoms, such as depression, pain, gastrointestinal problems, etc.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS)
DBS is a therapy aimed at treating multiple symptoms in some people with late-stage Parkinson’s.
- DBS stimulates a specific part of your brain with mild electrical pulses.
- The DBS treatment leads to better symptom management. It can mean a 30% to 40% reduction in the amount of medication you need.
- In New Zealand, fewer than 20 people receive DBS treatment annually (because it is only effective in some people).
Read more about deep brain stimulation(external link).