It's not the end

It's not the end

It's not the end

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes mild to severe tremors in the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face. It also slows down the person’s movement, making limbs stiff and rigid, impairing balance and coordination and sometimes causing slurred speech. All these symptoms worsen over time. The disease makes it difficult to manage several basic tasks like walking, eating and talking.

Science has yet to find a cure for the disease, but the right treatment of symptoms and following a healthy lifestyle can improve the quality of life for patients. Here are some suggestions:

Eat fibre-rich foods: Constipation is a common side-effect of Parkinson’s medication and lack of activity. So, patients should eat foods rich in fibre and drink plenty of fluids. Since Parkinson’s patients also have difficulty in chewing and swallowing food because of weakened muscles, eating smaller meals at frequent intervals is better than trying to eat large meals fewer times.

Exercise regularly: It is important for Parkinson’s patients to exercise regularly to improve muscle strength. They are at risk of lightheadedness, caused either by the disease itself or by the medication. Inform the doctor about any lightheadedness so that s/he can make changes in medication and advise on how to stay physically active to control these symptoms.

Caution while driving: Parkinson’s patients should only drive if there is no stiffness, which is usually a symptom in the advanced stages of the disease. One of my Parkinson’s patients undertook an 8,500 km road-trip after undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. So, patients can drive if their treatment is working well and their movements are not restricted.

Travel care: Parkinson’s patients must check with their doctor on whether it is feasible for them to travel. It is important to carry all medicines as well as the doctor’s prescription while travelling. Never miss your medicine dose.

Advanced treatment options: DBS surgery is an effective treatment option in select patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease. A pacemaker is implanted under the skin near the collarbone and connected to electrodes in targeted areas of the brain. Today, patients have access to advanced pacemakers with a long battery life of upto 25 years intended to limit repeat surgeries to change the pacemaker. Additionally, it offers improved programming options for better control and enhanced quality of life.

With a combination of the right medications and treatment options like DBS surgery and other therapies, it is possible for Parkinson’s patients to live a complete and independent life.

(The author is consultant neurosurgeon and spine surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Bengaluru)

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