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Diagnosing and Treating Parkinson's Disease

Diagnosing Parkinson's disease 

Parkinson's disease is mainly diagnosed based on symptoms, medical history and neurological exam. Neuroimaging, such as a MRI, is sometimes used to rule out other disorders with similar symptoms. Patients may be given levodopa to help confirm diagnosis. If levodopa relieves motor impairment, then the diagnosis of PD is considered to be confirmed.

Treating Parkinson's disease

There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease, so the goal of treatment is to control the symptoms' effects. Some common medications used are dopamine precursors, dopamine agonists, and anticholinergics.

Lifestyle changes as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy can help a PD patient improve their quality of life.

Eventually, symptoms may stop responding to drug treatment. Surgery is considered when medications have proven ineffective. Beaumont has been a leader in using a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation to treat various neurological and movement disorders such as PD. Deep Brain Stimulation, also called DBS, uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator - similar to a heart pacemaker and approximately the size of a stopwatch - to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and PD symptoms.

Unlike other types of surgeries for PD, DBS does not damage healthy brain tissue by destroying nerve cells. Thus, if newer, more promising treatments develop in the future, the DBS procedure can be reversed. Also, stimulation from the neurostimulator is easily adjustable - without further surgery - if the patient's condition changes. Some people describe the stimulator adjustments as "programming." At present, the procedure is used only for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications.


Neurorehabilitation, along with surgical intervention and neuropharmaceuticals, is a critical part of Parkinson's disease treatment and allows patients to live out all or most of their expected life-span despite their condition. There is evidence that motor speech, swallowing, physical and occupational therapy can help maintain a good quality of life for most PD patients. The Parkinson Rehabilitation Program at Beaumont has been providing all the efficacious treatment programs in a multidisciplinary setting for a number of years

In the news

Learn more about a research study done by Dr. Stewart Graham about Parkinson disease.