Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called the basal ganglia and substantia nigra. Indications of Parkinson's are slow to develop over many years. Symptoms may include tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), limb rigidity, and gait or balance problems.
If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, you might have many questions regarding treatment and the best ways to manage symptoms. Our neurologists at St. Luke's Health have answers for you.
What are the five stages of Parkinson's disease?
People are different and will experience the onset of this disease in different ways. However, there is a typical pattern of progression for Parkinson's.
Stage 1: Mild symptoms that generally do not interfere with day-to-day activity. Movement symptoms occur on one side of the body. May begin to see changes in posture, walking, and facial expressions.
Stage 2: Tremor, limb rigidity, and other movement symptoms begin to affect both sides of the body. The person is still able to live alone, but daily tasks become more complex.
Stage 3: Loss of balance and slow movements begin to set in. Falls are more common. Symptoms can begin to impair activities like dressing and eating.
Stage 4: Symptoms have become severe and limiting. Movement may require assistance, like using a walker. The person is unable to live alone.
Stage 5: This is the most advanced stage. Stiffness in the legs may make it impossible to stand or walk unassisted. Around-the-clock care is necessary for all activities, and the person may need to stay confined in bed or use a wheelchair.
Are there specific exercises that are best for managing Parkinson's disease?
Doctors recommend aerobic activities to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. These include walking, running, swimming, or cycling. It is also essential to consider various activities that focus on motor skills, balance, strength, and other fitness components. For example, yoga is a good exercise for building muscle strength and increasing flexibility. Depending on the disease's progression, it might be beneficial to work out with a partner or in an environment where someone could offer assistance.
Dr. Joseph Jankovic, a neurologist at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, has been a principal investigator in over 100 clinical trials studying treatments for Parkinson's disease. He is also the founder and director of the Parkinson's Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic, which has been recognized as a Center of Excellence by the National Parkinson's Foundation.
"People who exercise also have increased connectivity within the brain, and they have less age-related degeneration of the brain. All of these factors support a notion that the brain benefits from long-term exercise, and this has been specifically shown in patients with Parkinson's disease."
-Dr. Joseph Jankovic, neurologist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
What kind of foods should someone with Parkinson's be eating?
A healthy diet may not prevent the progression of Parkinson's, but it may have some significant impacts, including reducing the intensity of symptoms. Parkinson's disease is the result of decreased dopamine levels in the brain, and these levels can change based on the foods you eat. These foods include:
- Nuts, berries, and nightshade vegetables - antioxidants help prevent oxidative and damage to the brain
- Fava beans - contain levodopa, the same ingredient used in Parkinson’s medications
- Salmon, oyster, flaxseed, and some beans - Omega-3's help protect the brain from damage
Avoid reheated cooking oils. Heating some oils to a specific temperature can cause toxic chemicals called aldehydes to form. It is also important to avoid exposure to toxins like herbicides and pesticides.
Can Parkinson's disease increase my risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms?
While living with Parkinson's does not put you at a higher risk to contract COVID-19, it does make it more difficult to recover if you catch the virus. If someone with Parkinson's lives in community housing, they should avoid communal areas and wash their hands frequently.
What effects does deep brain stimulation have on Parkinson's?
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a neurological therapy that delivers electrical stimulation to targeted areas of the brain through an implanted device. New advancements in this field have allowed for easier and more precise treatment of Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation treatment have experienced better symptom control and fewer unwanted side effects. Sameer Sheth, MD, neurosurgeon at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center is an internationally renowned leader in the surgical implantation of DBS systems and their potential applications.
"The additional features of this DBS system allow us to better tailor stimulation to each patient's needs. Because every patient is different, this greater degree of control will be very helpful for individualizing therapy, which translates into better symptom reduction and fewer stimulation-induced side effects for our patients."
-Dr. Sameer Sheth, neurosurgeon at Baylor St. Luke's
Are there any Parkinson's clinical trials available?
Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center is constantly engaging in clinical trials to test innovative therapies designed to improve symptoms of Parkinson's disease or favorably modify its progression. New clinical trials are continuously being approved and updated.
Have more questions about Parkinson's disease? Schedule a consultation with a St. Luke's health neurologist today or learn more about our neurology and neurosurgery programs.
Parkinson's Foundation | What Is Parkinson's?
Parkinson's Foundation | 5 Stages of Parkinson's Disease
Healthline | Everything You Want To Know About Parkinson's Disease
Medical News Today | Parkinson's Disease And Its Causes
Parkinson's Foundation | COVID-19 & Parkinson's
Baylor College of Medicine | Baylor St. Luke's adopts new Parkinson's disease treatment