Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States, affecting at least 500,000 people. It’s a progressive disease, but can be managed with treatment. For now, the condition is diagnosed by symptoms rather than specific lab tests.
By the time a formal diagnosis is made, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) notes that the disease has usually progressed to a point where people have difficulty controlling bodily movements.
That’s why it’s important to know whether it’s possible to prevent this disease.
Currently, there is no therapy or treatment that can slow the progression of Parkinson’s or effectively relieve advanced symptoms, according to the NINDS.
By the time classic motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease show up, a significant loss of brain cells and function have already occurred. Scientists are investigating ways to detect early signs of the disease, to potentially stop or slow the progression.
Researchers aim to learn more about biomarkers of the early stages of the disease. Finding
For example, research indicates that it may be useful to study the activity of a neuronal protein in the brain known as α-synuclein, or alpha-synyclein.
Environmental and genetic factors
Scientists are also working to learn more about environmental factors and genetic factors that might contribute to the risk of developing Parkinson’s. One recent genetic research breakthrough is the development of a DNA chip called NeuroX, which could potentially determine a person’s risk, but more research is needed.
Parkinson’s disease is the result of complicated “combination of interconnected events,” as
While it’s not yet known if there are surefire ways to prevent Parkinson’s disease, there are a few things experts recommend.
For example, you might try incorporating physical activity into your routine and eating a healthy and balanced diet for a variety of health reasons. So far, research into nutritional supplements is lacking. However, if you have specific dietary needs, talk to your doctor to see if supplementation is appropriate.
Could CBD oil help? It’s possible, but we don’t know for sure yet. Some research, including
- aerobic activity
- strength training
- balance training
- functional activities
The NINDS has funded a number of studies to learn more about the impact of exercise, including whether exercise might help people delay the need for medication.
There are a variety of options for treating and managing Parkinson’s symptoms, most of which involve medications that address the brain’s low levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that affects movement, and Parkinson’s causes your brain to lose neurons that produce this chemical.
Medications that address this include levodopa, or levodopa combined with carbidopa. Or your doctor might prescribe a dopamine agonist, which mimics the action of dopamine in your brain. Other drugs used to treat Parkinson’s include:
- MAO-B inhibitors
- Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors
- Anticholinergic medications,
- Adenosine A2A receptor antagonists
Deep brain stimulation
Another possible treatment option is deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997. Many people have found that this treatment, which involves sending electrical impulses into the brain via tiny electrodes, helps control tremors once treatment with levodopa is no longer effective.
A small 2018 study found that DBS seemed to slow the progression of tremors in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also found that DBS could be used effectively in people with an earlier disease stage than previously thought.
Scientists hope that more treatments may become available in the future, as they learn more about which drug may or may not be effective at slowing or halting the progression of the disease.
For example, a randomized, double-blind trial of 62 patients found that people with Parkinson’s who took a drug usually used to treat diabetes seemed to stop the progression of the Parkinson’s symptoms. They received weekly injections of exenatide for 48 weeks.
It was a relatively small study, and longer-term trials are needed, according to the researchers. A larger study involving more patients is currently ongoing.
If you are already living with Parkinson’s disease, here are some tips to manage it:
- Exercise your brain. Read, work on crossword puzzle, do Sudoku, or engage in other activities that use your brain.
- Get moving. If you feel comfortable walking, swimming, or riding an exercise bike, go for it—and try to do it on a regular basis.
- Try tai chi. We think of tai chi as a mind-body exercise, and it is, but it also has roots as a martial art in China. A 2012 study found that practicing tai chi helped people with moderate Parkinson’s disease maintain stability and balance. And a 2014 study found that tai chi can help people reduce their risk of falling. It incorporates a flowing series of coordinated movements to help you maintain flexibility, strength and balance, and it can be easily adapted to meet your abilities.
- Practice yoga. You don’t have to perform headstands or other physically challenging poses to get significant benefits from practicing yoga. You can improve your balance, mobility, flexibility, and strength with a form that’s adapted for you.
- Find a support group. Whether you prefer an online support group or a group that meets in person, a support group can be an invaluable resource for helping you live with Parkinson’s disease.
There are medications that can help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and scientists are currently conducting research that could result in new treatment and therapies.
For example, you might one day have the option to take a medication used to treat prostate gland enlargement if you’re at risk for developing Parkinson’s disease.
Promising new research
The results of a
The findings built on their previous research, which suggested that the use of terazosin, doxazosin, and alfuzosin was associated with “slower progression and fewer complications in people with Parkinson’s disease.”
Researchers are also looking into the potential of stem cells to create new neurons to produce dopamine. They are also researching a protein called glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor, or GDNF, to potentially slow the progression of Parkinson’s.
Ongoing research into a gene called
For now, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be managed with medication and potentially deep brain stimulation. But research is underway to look for earlier methods of detection, as well as better treatments. Eventually, we might even have a way to prevent it from developing in the first place.