Medication for Parkinson's Disease

Managing Parkinson's with medications

There is still no cure for Parkinson’s but there are several types of medications that help control its symptoms. The most common ones are the levodopa containing medications, the dopamine agonists, the MAO-B inhibitors and the COMT inhibitors.

People living with Parkinson’s lack dopamine, but dopamine if taken just like that, never reaches the brain where it needs to work. So, instead, people are given a medication called levodopa, which reaches the brain and gets converted into dopamine once it is there. This is the type of medicine that most patients end up using. However, because like all medicines, levodopa has some limitations, other medications are often used to delay using it or in order to boost its effect when it no longer works as well.

The tablets that contain levodopa also contain a booster, that makes dopamine last longer. Sometimes, if the patient is young and the symptoms are mild, doctors may decide that it is better to save levodopa for later and start with a dopamine agonist or a MAO-B inhibitor instead, which are not as effective.

Dopamine agonists are medicines that have similar effects as dopamine because they stick to the same receptors that dopamine does. MAO-B inhibitors are a type of medicine that slows down the breakdown of dopamine in the brain.

Although levodopa is regarded as the most helpful medicine of all, it has two main limitations. After several years of being on levodopa, patients may experience two types of problems. On the one hand, the effect of each dose of levodopa may not last as long as it used to. On the other hand, soon after taking levodopa, when its levels in the blood is at its highest, patients can experience abnormal jerky movements. In order to even out the levels of levodopa in the blood and make each dose last longer, patients may take a COMT inhibitor.

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