Parkinson’s disease care in Denver

We offer customized treatment plans for individuals with a variety of movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. Although Parkinson’s disease does not yet have a cure, HealthONE is committed to using advanced medical technologies to create effective treatments. These protocols are designed with each individual’s needs and goals in mind.

To learn more about HealthONE's Parkinson's disease services, call (303) 575-0055.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. It is in a group of conditions known as movement disorders. The disease involves the degeneration of nerves in the substantia nigra, the area of the brain that controls movement. The dead or impaired nerve cells ultimately lose the ability to produce dopamine, which is a critical chemical for proper movement. When this occurs, a person may begin to experience symptoms, such as tremors at rest, stiffness in limbs, slowness of movements and/or balance problems.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

The specific causes of Parkinson’s disease are largely unknown. Some scientists and researchers suggest that genetics, the environment or both could play a role. However, there are certain risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease, such as:

  • Age: A diagnosis is usually made in people 50 years old and older, but onset can be anywhere from 35 to 85 years old.
  • Gender: Men are 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease.
  • Genetics: For people diagnosed before 50 years old, most have abnormal genes that tend to run in their families. For those diagnosed after 60 years old, the role of genetics is unclear.
  • Race: Caucasians are shown to have a slightly higher rate of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to the rate of those who are of Asian or African descent.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Most symptoms of Parkinson’s disease typically start very slowly and increase in severity over time. Not every person with Parkinson’s disease will develop every symptom, and some symptoms may start before the presence of the movement-related issues.

Some of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:

Balance and coordination issues

Balance issues and problems with coordination typically involve unsteadiness when walking, increased risk of falling and difficulties completing everyday activities, such as eating and writing.

Muscle stiffness or rigidness

Muscle stiffness and rigidness often involves involuntary tightening, which makes it difficult to initiate the desired movement. Automatic movements—such as swinging arms while walking, swallowing and facial expressions—may become increasingly difficult.

Slowed movements (bradykinesia)

Slowed movements often involve shuffling or shorter steps when walking.

Tremors or shakes

Tremors or shakes typically occur at rest and are usually absent when sleeping or when purposely moving. “Pill rolling” may also occur, which is characterized by rubbing the index and thumb together.

Other symptoms

Additionally, other common symptoms of the disease may include:

  • Bladder control issues
  • Body temperature changes
  • Changes in personality
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Cramping (mainly in the legs)
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Fluctuating blood pressure (especially when standing)
  • Freezing (being unable to move; typically occurs in the advanced stages)
  • Increase in urination frequency (nocturia)
  • Increased sweating
  • Memory issues
  • Oily-looking skin (seborrhea)
  • Reduced or loss of sense of smell
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep issues (sometimes from restless leg syndrome)
  • Stooped posture

How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?

Although there are no laboratory tests for the disease, there are several things doctors look for when making a diagnosis. In addition to a physical exam and your medical history, the movement specialist will also look for the presence of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

However, because everyone may not show the common symptoms, a neurological exam may be ordered to observe and evaluate your case. If a diagnosis is still unclear, other tests may be conducted, including medical imaging exams.

How is Parkinson’s disease treated?

The key to successfully treating Parkinson’s disease lies partly in finding a neurologist who specializes in movement-related diseases and can create a customized treatment plan for you. Our neurologists combine the latest technology and research with movement disorder expertise to craft a custom plan that meets each individual’s specific needs and goals.

Since there is not a cure for Parkinson’s disease, the primary treatment options involve symptom management. This is typically in the form of medications that increase dopamine. However, most treatment plans include one or a combination of the following:

Lifestyle changes

Specific lifestyle changes vary depending on the individual’s needs, goals, symptoms and current lifestyle. Some recommended changes may include: more rest, diet changes, exercise, stress and depression management or home safety modifications.

Medication

Medications that help relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms involve either increasing the amount of dopamine or activating the dopamine receptors. Carbidopa and levodopa are typically the most effective in this category.

Speech therapy

If the disease is affecting a person’s ability to speak, including being able to speak loud enough to be heard, then speech therapy may help.

Surgery

Some people have seen symptom reduction from advanced surgery; typically, surgery involves deep brain stimulation (DBS), a form of neurostimulation.

In DBS, electrodes are placed in different areas of the brain. Sending an electrical impulse to those electrodes can result in symptom reduction. This procedure is less invasive than other surgical options, may be reversible if necessary and is adjustable to help meet the specific needs of the patient. However, every surgical procedure involves risks and should be discussed with your neurologist.