Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder which affects seven to ten million people worldwide.1 Affecting motor and coordination in patients, PD is caused by a deficiency of dopamine producing cells. The shortage of dopamine, a substance that is used in the brain to transmit signals, causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to appear.
The hallmark signs of Parkinson’s disease include movement disorders such as slowness of movement (bradykinesia), inability to move (akinesia), resting tremors, parkinsonian gait and muscle rigidity. Occasionally the disease also causes depression, constipation, speech impairment, sexual dysfunction and dementia. The severity of Parkinson's disease symptoms tend to progress over time.
A lack of a definitive test to diagnose PD can make confirmation of the disease a lengthy process. A movement disorder specialist will make a diagnosis based findings from a medical history, review of symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination. Blood and imaging test may be ordered to rule out other conditions that may cause symptoms. 2
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Treatment is typically focused on restoring dopamine levels through the administration of Dopaminergic medications.3 Current standards for patient care recommend levodopa as first-line therapy for the symptomatic control during the early, uncomplicated stages of PD. Unfortunately, chronic treatment with levodopa frequently leads to significant side effects, especially dyskinesias (involuntary movements) and motor fluctuations.4
Some additional therapies for the treatment of severe Parkinson’s disease symptoms include a pallidotomy (surgical procedure to destroy a tiny part of the globus pallidus by creating a scar) as well as deep brain stimulation (DBS). Both have been reported to help reduce symptoms of PD.5
The DBS procedure includes a modest medical device which sends signals to the brain. The signals help control the motor functions that are affected by movement disorder symptoms such as tremor, slowness and rigidity.
The physician will place one or two insulated wires called leads in the brain. The leads are then connected to the stimulator (similar to a pacemaker), which is typically placed under the skin in the chest. The device produces mild electrical impulses that stimulate a specific region of the brain. This may help regulate signaling in the brain, resulting in improvement of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Although DBS is not a cure, it may help improve day-to-day experiences and quality of life. Most people will continue to take Parkinson's disease medications but often at a reduced dosage.