A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is a scary one and learning that there isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s is even scarier. The good news is that researchers are investigating new treatment options to help improve the lives of people diagnosed with this debilitating disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative disease of the brain. Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common nervous system disorders in the elderly with over 1 million Americans suffering from the disease and over 5 million people worldwide suffering from it. Parkinson’s disease develops when the nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for dopamine production are destroyed. Dopamine helps to control muscle movement by sending messages. The lack of dopamine in the brain of individuals with Parkinson’s leads to a loss of muscle function and as a result those that have Parkinson’s disease often have tremors, as well as difficulty with movement including walking and skills that require co-ordination. There are also non-motor symptoms of the disease which include sleep problems, loss of the sense of smell, constipation, speech and swallowing difficulties and low pressure upon standing. Additionally, mood disorder and cognitive impairment can occur which can range from mild memory loss and forgetfulness to dementia. All of these symptoms get worse over time. Currently there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease; treatment involves symptom control. Current traditional medical treatment options include drug therapy and/or surgery (deep brain stimulation, lesioning, radiosurgery, and radiofrequency ablation).
According to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, focused ultrasound is a non-invasive way to treat Parkinson’s disease. Using this treatment modality, in combination with image guidance, a doctor directs a focused beam of acoustic (sound) energy through a patients’ scalp, skull and brain to thermally coagulate a small area of the brain which destroys the targeted tissue without causing damage to the surrounding tissues.
The Focused Ultrasound Foundation states that there are many benefits of focused ultrasound which still have to be tested in clinical trials, but they include:
– Treatment is non-invasive and provides immediate results; Because treatment is non-invasive, the risk of infection is significantly reduced
– Treatment doesn’t use ionizing radiation and therefore doesn’t have the adverse effects associated with ionizing radiation
– Because treatment is focused, tissue damage to surrounding areas is unlikely
– Focused ultrasound is a one-time treatment and doesn’t involve implanting a foreign object so the risk of clotting is reduced
– There is no need for electrode or needle insertion so the potential for damage to the brain is reduced
Research investigating the use of focused ultrasound for Parkinson’s disease patients has already begun according to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. Research is looking at different treatment options including non-invasive thermal lesioning to a small area of the brain, improving delivery of dopamine, gene therapy and even delivering stem cells to the brain using focused ultrasound to create a reversible opening of the blood-brain barrier. There are a number of studies currently being conducted to test the use of focused ultrasound for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However it should be stressed that the testing of focused ultrasound for Parkinson’s disease is in the early stages of research. Much more research is needed on this potential treatment option before it will be offered to the general public.
Until the results from the focused ultrasound studies are published, there are a variety of natural health remedies that you can try (in addition to your drug and/or surgical therapy) to help you cope with the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of these natural health options include:
Massage therapy – this can help to relax your tense muscles and help with relaxation which will help to deal with the motor difficulties that many people with Parkinson’s have.
Acupuncture – this natural health therapy may help to reduce pain associated with the disease.
Exercise – activities such as yoga, tai chi will help you to gain flexibility, balance and muscle strength.
Meditation – focusing your mind will help you to reduce stress and pain.
The possibilities that focused ultrasound may provide Parkinson’s patients with is exciting, if the results from these studies show a positive outcome, it is possible that a cure for Parkinson’s may be near. Until this time, sticking with traditional drug and/or surgical management to control symptoms is vital for Parkinson’s patients. Adding in natural health options to complement traditional medical management of the disease may also provide an added benefit for Parkinson’s patients.