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Treating Movement Disorders

Treating Movement Disorders

Treatments for Parkinson’s and other disorders have improved

Movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and related disorders, can disrupt everyday life. Patient’s experience a wide range of symptoms—from movement difficulties to mood disorders to cognition challenges. These conditions also typically progress with time. But help is available.  

The available treatments for Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia and other movement disorders have improved dramatically during the past decade. Specialized neurologists and neurosurgeons now have a wide array of treatment options to help patients achieve their best possible quality of life. 

World-class care in the community

For decades, individuals with Parkinson’s or other movement disorders were treated primarily by general neurologists and had limited choices in terms of medicines. To see specialists, patients would have to travel to large, academic institutions. That is no longer the case. 

“One of the biggest hurdles to doing well with Parkinson’s compared to doing just okay was access to specialty care,” explained Dr. Drew Falconer, co-medical director and neurologist at the Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center. “We created an academic center in a community-based setting and all of a sudden that accessibility problem fell by the wayside.”

Dr. Falconer noted that since its founding five years ago, the Inova center has grown dramatically and is focused only on movement disorders. Last year, the center provided care for more than 2,800 Parkinson’s patients alone. 

The evolution of treatments

In addition to being more accessible, treatments for Parkinson’s disease and related disorders have also become more advanced and reliable. 

“Parkinson’s is a problem of a chemical being low, and that chemical is dopamine,” Dr. Falconer explained. “These patients are a car driving around, and their tank of gas is empty. The gas we have to give them to fill up their tank is dopamine. It’s very much akin to your type 1 diabetics who need insulin to function.”

Traditional medications for Parkinson’s provided dopamine, but they were unable to provide consistent levels of the chemical. Patients would be left experiencing dopamine highs and lows. For instance, when patients have too much dopamine in their system, they may experience dyskinesia, or uncontrolled, involuntary muscle movements. New medications can deliver dopamine in more predictable and consistent ways—giving patients more symptom relief and fewer side effects, Falconer noted. 

Beyond more advanced medications, movement disorder specialists can offer other treatments including Deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure in which a device that works much like a pacemaker for the brain is implanted and delivers targeted electrical impulses to interrupt faulty brain signals. Specialists can also provide botulinum injections to help treat muscle tightness and dopamine intestinal gel to consistently deliver treatment. 

If you or a loved has been living with a movement disorder or were recently diagnosed, a specialist can develop an individualized care plan to meet your specific needs. There is no need to rely on outdated therapies or to settle for inadequate symptom management.

Essential Tremor vs. Parkinson’s

Essential tremor is a movement disorder in which a tremor comes out with activity. For instance, when a person is writing, their hand may begin to shake, but when they are at rest, their hand will not shake.

“Essential tremor is far more common than Parkinson’s disease, maybe ten times more common, if not more,” Dr. Falconer said.

Falconer went on to note that nearly 90 percent of essential tremor patients are treated only by a primary care physician. However, he said, essential tremor responds well to newer pharmaceutical protocols—and treatments like Deep Brain Stimulation can eliminate it completely.

Neurologists and associated specialists focused on movement disorders provide treatment for:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Essential Tremor (ET)
  • Dystonia, spasticity and other tone issues, including those resulting from multiple sclerosis or neurological injury
  • Tic disorders
  • Huntington’s disease and other hyperkinetic movement disorders
  • Parkinsonisms, including multisystem atrophy (MSA), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD)

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