Treatments for Parkinson’s disease are given to help treat the disease or manage symptoms. While Parkinson’s treatments typically help improve quality of life, they can also have their own set of side effects.
The most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease are dopaminergic medications. These drugs work by influencing levels of the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) dopamine. These drugs often work because Parkinson’s disease symptoms are caused by low levels of dopamine in the brain.
Dopaminergic medications include:
As with any medication, dopaminergic medications come with side effects. Common side effects include:
While levodopa is an effective drug in treating Parkinson’s disease, long-term use can cause a condition known as dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is a side effect of treatment that causes involuntary movements such as swaying, twisting, jerking, or writhing. Amantadine drugs, sold under the brand names Gocovri and Symmetrel, can be combined with Rytary or Sinemet to treat dyskinesia while still managing Parkinson’s disease.
In rare cases, the side effects of dopaminergic medications can become serious. If you notice any of these side effects while taking dopaminergic medication, seek medical help immediately.
Serious side effects of Parkinson’s medications include:
Psychosis is a serious mental condition. It can present as hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that do not exist), paranoia (not trusting others or thinking others want to hurt you), and delusions (believing false information).
Other medications can be used to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or side effects of the medications used to treat it. These medications commonly include Northera (droxidopa) for low blood pressure or dizziness upon standing. Antipsychotics Nuplazid (pimavanserin) and Seroquel (quetiapine) are also prescribed for psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.
Medications that help manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or its treatments should improve your overall quality of life. However, these drugs can come with some side effects as well, including:
Rarely, serious side effects can develop after taking medication to help manage Parkinson’s disease or treatment side effects. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment option for Parkinson’s disease that uses electrode implants placed in the brain to stimulate certain regions of the brain. This type of electrical stimulation can help treat movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. If you undergo DBS surgery, your surgeon will drill small holes in your skull to place the electrodes. The doctor will also place a device similar to a pacemaker in your upper chest to help control the electric signals.
There can be side effects from the surgery and the DBS treatment itself.
The electrical impulses sent through the electrodes to the brain can cause some side effects, including:
Surgery is an intensive process, and it can lead to rare yet serious complications. Your neurologist and surgeon should discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you before surgery. Complications that can arise from surgery include:
Before you begin treatment, your neurologist should discuss which options are best for you, considering all possible side effects. Generally, the benefits of a medication or procedure outweigh the side effects. If you find that side effects are too much to handle, talk to your doctor about other options.
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