8 more therapies and treatments for Parkinson’s

Parkinson's disease series

More_Parkinson_treatmentsMost neurologists treat people who have Parkinson’s disease with a medication called carbidopa/levodopa or Sinemet, as it is known by its brand name. We also offer several new FDA-approved therapies, surgery and other therapies that can greatly improve the quality of a patient’s life.

Recommendations will depend upon the course of the disease, the patient’s medical history and the neurologist’s estimation of which option is best for this particular patient.

New FDA-approved Parkinson’s therapies

Neurologists typically use these therapies in more advanced Parkinson’s disease or in special circumstances. Both therapies aim to increase “on” time, while reducing “off” time. “On” time refers to periods when Parkinson’s symptoms are adequately controlled. “Off” time refers to periods of the day when the medication is not working well, making symptoms worse.  Continue reading

Essential tremor and how deep brain stimulation restores quality of life

A retired teacher's personal story

I had been dealing with some form of essential tremor (ET) for 10 to 15 years. It had become increasingly worse, to the extent that I had very little, if any, fine motor control and progressively compromised gross motor skills.

Elizabeth Scheffler's

Elizabeth Scheffler’s essential tremor has been treated successfully with deep brain stimulation surgery.

The tremor was bilateral (in both hands). I also had a head and voice tremor. It was most embarrassing because I couldn’t control it. Strangers remarked on it frequently and TSA at the airport was quite insistent that I needed a wheelchair. This led me to withdraw and limit social contacts.

It was not possible to carry a cup of coffee without spilling, eat a sandwich without shaking it apart or feed my then-infant grandson. Eventually, it became very difficult to cope with any daily tasks such as cooking (try flipping a pancake), buttoning clothes or putting on earrings or make-up. It was especially frustrating in this age of high-tech electronics with computers and cell phones. I had to give up most of the things I enjoyed like pottery, calligraphy and photography.

Medications (I tried three or four) made little or no impact on the tremors. One neurologist in Colorado was even treating me for Parkinson’s (which it turns out I do not have).  Continue reading

Essential Tremor and Deep Brain Stimulation

A personal journey

I grew up hearing about essential tremor (ET). An aunt (my father’s sister) had it, as well as my grandfather, and apparently I’ve had it all my life. It explained why, even though I was a good student, I could never get a good grade in handwriting.

Patient Margaret Sammons talks of her experience with essential tremor and DBS

Patient Margaret Sammons talks of her experience with essential tremor and DBS

Problem realized

As an adult, I had a slight tremor in my hands, but I was used to it, and didn’t think much about it, although occasionally someone would ask me if I was nervous. As time went on, however, it got worse.

I’m an Episcopal priest, and the tipping point came when I was leading a funeral. At the end of the service, a relative of the person I had just buried came up to me and said, “This is what you need.” It turned out that he was a physician and he handed me a prescription for a beta-blocker. That was when I realized two things: the kindness and forbearance of the people I served and the fact that I really needed help.

I then saw a neurologist who tried several medications. Each had side effects—the most successful one caused me to lose a dangerous amount of weight.  Continue reading