PD is caused by a loss of certain nerve cells in the brain. The loss of these cells causes a decrease in the amount of a brain chemical called dopamine. Low dopamine levels cause PD symptoms.
The brain cells may be lost because of genetic defects, the environment, or some combination of the two. A small amount of people with PD have an early-onset form. This type is caused by an inherited gene defect.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There are no tests to definitively diagnose PD. The doctor will ask many questions. This will help to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
Tests to rule out other conditions may include:
Imaging tests evaluate internal bodily structures. This can be done with:
Currently, there are no treatments to cure PD. There are also no proven treatments to slow or stop its progression. Some medications may help to improve symptoms. Over time, the side effects of the medication may become troublesome. The medications may also lose their effectiveness.
Medications that may be used to treat PD include:
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Depression or hallucinations may also occur with PD and its treatment. Medications may be prescribed to attempt to treat these conditions. The drugs may include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
are common in those with PD. Bisphosphonates are medications that may help reduce this risk.
Constipation, drooling, and lightheadedness when standing are common and may improve with medications or other treatments.
Different brain operations are available, and many more are being researched including:
Deep brain stimulation (DBS)—implanting a device to stimulate certain parts of the brain; can decrease tremor and rigidity
Thalamotomy and pallidotomy—destroying certain areas of the brain to improve tremor when medication does not work (not as common as deep brain stimulation)
Nerve-cell transplants (research only)—to increase amount of dopamine made in the brain
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