Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative nervous system disorder. Although there is currently no cure, it is possible to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and slow its progression using a combination of medications and other treatments.

Torrance Memorial Medical Center offers the best available treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Our affiliation with the nationally acclaimed neurology and neurosurgery team at Cedars-Sinai’s Parkinson’s Disease Center allows us to deliver the highest quality of care.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes disordered movements, such as tremors, rigid muscles, and loss of automatic movements. These symptoms are caused by a lack of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

For reasons that are still unknown, people with Parkinson’s disease experience a gradual death of the neurons that produce dopamine. Because Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder, symptoms will start as minor — perhaps barely noticeable — and slowly worsen over time.

Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, but there can be serious complications, such as difficulty chewing and swallowing. In the most advanced stage of Parkinson’s, patients are unable to walk on their own and may need 24-hour care.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, symptoms may include:

  • Tremor (often in your hands or fingers)
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Slurred speech or softer speech
  • Arms no longer swing when walking

Parkinson’s disease does not progress the same way in every patient, but most people experience some the following symptoms as the condition worsens:

  • More severe tremors or shaking
  • Slowed movement
  • Rigid, painful muscles
  • Shortened steps or shuffling gait
  • Poor posture
  • Impaired balance
  • More significant changes in speech
  • Changes in handwriting
  • Loss of automatic movements (such as blinking)

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, see your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can properly evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions.

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown, but researchers have identified several risk factors, including:

  • Age. Parkinson’s disease typically emerges at about age 60, on average, and is very rare in young adults

  • Genetics. Having a close relative who has Parkinson’s disease may increase your risk of developing the condition.

  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.

  • Exposure to certain chemicals. Research has shown that repeated exposure to herbicides and pesticides may increase your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosis

There is no blood test or brain scan that tests for Parkinson’s disease; a physician can only make a diagnosis by assessing your symptoms. Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease in its early stages can be more difficult because the symptoms are usually less severe. Your family doctor may be able to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, but you should get a second opinion from a neurologist who specializes in diagnosing movement disorders.

Cedars-Sinai’s Parkinson’s Disease Center is staffed by a specially trained team of neurologists who accurately diagnose Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders and develop optimal treatment plans.

Treatment

Choosing Cedars-Sinai’s Parkinson’s Disease Center for your care means that you will receive treatment from a multidisciplinary team, which may include your primary care doctor, a neurologist, a physical therapist, a nutritionist, a social worker, and other health professionals as needed.

The physicians at Cedars-Sinai’s Parkinson’s Disease Center formulate treatment plans based on the stage of your disease and your specific symptoms. Treatment may involve a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, occupational therapy, and in some cases, surgery.

Early-Stage Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, medications may be effective in reducing your symptoms. These medications either increase your brain’s production of dopamine, mimic the effects of dopamine in your brain, or protect your existing dopamine production.

A healthy diet and regular exercise can also be part of Parkinson’s disease treatment in the early stages. Eating the right foods may increase the effectiveness of your medications. Regular exercise can improve gait and balance and may alleviate some challenges with movement.

Middle-Stage Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Medications may become less effective as Parkinson’s disease progresses. The Cedars-Sinai Parkinson’s Disease Center offers other treatments when medications no longer work.

One option is Botox injections, which can reduce involuntary muscle movements. Another is deep brain stimulation, a minimally invasive surgery that implants a small electrical device in the part of your brain that controls movement.

Late-Stage Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Complications may increase during the late stages of Parkinson’s disease. You may experience insomnia, hallucinations, dementia, and severe trouble with urination and bowel movements.

The Cedars-Sinai Parkinson’s Disease Center is prepared to address all of these complications through a multidisciplinary treatment approach. Treatment will include a combination of medications and therapies to alleviate or lessen symptoms and help you maintain the best possible quality of life.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease are at an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety, especially during the later stages of the disease. Your treatment plan will address your mental health as well as your physical health and may include individual counseling sessions.