Drug treatment for Parkinson’s disease attempts to correct the imbalance of the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) dopamine .
Low levels of dopamine cause the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Treatment may be different based on a person’s symptoms, age, and what response occurs with a certain medication. Medications do improve symptoms in many people, however, in some people, medications can cause side effects. It may take some time to find the best combination of medications for a particular person.
When symptoms become troublesome or disabling, medication to treat specific symptoms is started. Currently, levodopa is the most effective drug treatment for Parkinson’s disease 8. Levodopa is converted to dopamine in the brain.
Levodopa and levodopa/carbidopa
Tricyclic antidepressants may be used to treat depression. They may also have anticholinergic effects, and increase dopamine levels 5 but do not relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Levodopa and certain other medications may be more effective when taken before meals. Abruptly stopping medications may worsen symptoms and may be dangerous 6.
Doctors will generally try one drug at a time, starting with low doses.
Problems with drug treatment for Parkinson’s disease include:
Sudden changes in response to the drugs (called the “on-off” response)
Involuntary twitching and writhing movements (dyskinesias)
Weakness that comes and goes
Changes in medication doses and using combinations of different medications may be helpful in the management of these problems.
Dementia may affect how a person responds to medication and follows directions for taking medications.