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Parkinson’s Disease Medications: Effectiveness & Side-Effects

Want to know about Parkinson’s disease medications? Here are all your options, including how they work, side-effects, and what to expect. Details on HealthyPlace.

Parkinson's disease medications are prescribed by doctors to treat common symptoms associated with the condition. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, the right combination of medications and physical therapy helps most patients control their Parkinson’s symptoms. So, when it comes to treatment, what are your options? Let’s explore common Parkinson’s disease medications, along with their effectiveness, side-effects and warnings.

Parkinson’s Disease Medications: The Facts

There have been many developments in Parkinson's disease treatments in recent years. As such, doctors now have a greater understanding of traditional Parkinson's disease medications and their side-effects. Scientists have also developed new drugs to help control tremors, slowed movement and other Parkinson's symptoms.

Before we explore the best medication for Parkinson's disease, it's important to address the facts. Firstly, Parkinson's disease medications cannot cure your condition, nor will they slow down the progression of your symptoms. These medications are prescribed to help patients live independently and improve their quality of life.

It's important to note that some patients do not respond well to Parkinson's disease medications. In this case, there are plenty of other treatment options to consider – such as homeopathic remedies, physical therapy and surgical intervention. Again, none of these treatments provides a cure, but they can help ease or control your symptoms.

Medication for Parkinson’s Disease: Side-Effects and Effectiveness

After a Parkinson's disease diagnosis, your doctor will suggest possible treatment options. The medications most commonly prescribed by doctors include:

Levodopa-carbidopa (Sinemet)

Sinemet (consisting of levodopa and carbidopa) is the most commonly prescribed drug for Parkinson's disease. Sinemet helps control symptoms such as slow movements and rigidity. Levodopa works by converting natural brain chemicals into dopamine, while carbidopa is taken alongside levodopa to make it more effective. Carbidopa also eases the side-effects of levodopa, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Light-headedness

It also helps control long-term side effects of levodopa (after 3-5 years), such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Unusual or unexpected movements

Sinemet has few side-effects compared to other Parkinson's disease medications, but it does increase your risk of sudden, involuntary movements – known as dyskinesia. Your doctor can work with you to prevent some of these side-effects or help you manage them with other medications.

Safinamide (Xadago)

Safinamide is often prescribed by doctors as an add-on to levodopa and carbidopa when a medication like Sinemet stops being effective. Safinamide can help you go longer without experiencing symptoms. Common side effects of this medication include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Uncontrolled movements
  • Increased risk of falls

Dopamine agonists

Dopamine agonists act like dopamine cells in the brain. They are usually prescribed by doctors first to see if they can control your symptoms. Many doctors will add in medicine like Sinemet as your disease progresses, especially if your symptoms are not under control.

You can take dopamine agonists on their own or alongside Sinemet without any long-term problems. However, short-term side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Selegiline (Eldepryl, Zelapar) and rasagiline (Azilect)

Selegiline works by blocking the brain chemicals that break down dopamine, thus increasing the supply in your brain and easing your motor symptoms. Some evidence shows that this medication can prolong the progression of Parkinson's disease, especially in the early stages. However, common side effects of Selegiline include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Depression

Amantadine (Symmetrel)

Amantadine is the best medication for Parkinson’s disease patients with mild symptoms. Like other medications, it works by raising the amount of dopamine in your brain which reduces involuntary movement and tremors. Side-effects include confusion and memory problems.

Trihexyphenidyl and benztropine

These drugs help restore the balance in your brain between dopamine and acetylcholine. As such, trihexyphenidyl and benztropine were often used as Parkinson's disease tremor medications in the past. However, they can also affect thinking and memory, particularly in older patients, which is why doctors rarely prescribe them today.  

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease Medications

Learning about Parkinson's disease and the side-effects of your medication can be daunting at first. However, there is no telling how these medications will affect you until you've tried them with medical guidance. Your doctor will prescribe you the most effective drug with the least number of side-effects first to see if this works for you. They will then increase your medication gradually or switch you to another course of treatment.

If you have questions about Parkinson's disease medications and side-effects, talk to your doctor. Whether you've been newly diagnosed or you're experiencing advanced symptoms, having a trusted medical advisor in place will help you make the right choices when it comes to treating your Parkinson's disease.

See Also:

Avoid These Parkinson's Medications

Parkinson’s Disease Medication List: Can These Meds Help You?

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2020, February 9). Parkinson’s Disease Medications: Effectiveness & Side-Effects, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parkinsons-disease/treatment/parkinsons-disease-medications-effectiveness-side-effects

Last Updated: February 18, 2020

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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