Parkinson's Treatment

While there still is no cure for Parkinson's disease, there are many medications and other treatment approaches available to help improve symptoms. Because Parkinson's is a progressive disease, many experts agree it's important to begin treatment as soon as possible to help you maintain an active lifestyle.

Medications for Parkinson's disease

There are a number of different kinds of medications available to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Most medications for Parkinson's disease treat the declining levels of dopamine by either:

  • Preventing its breakdown
  • Mimicking its effects
  • Replacing it

You may start out with one medication, but over time your doctor will most likely add and change medications as your symptoms change.

How PD medications work

MAO-B inhibitors preserve dopamine. MAO-B is an enzyme that breaks down the dopamine in your brain. MAO-B inhibitors help prevent dopamine from being broken down, so more of your brain's dopamine is preserved.

Dopamine agonists mimic dopamine. Dopamine agonists act like dopamine in the brain, mimicking the effects of dopamine.

Levodopa helps replace dopamine. Levodopa converts to dopamine in the brain, helping to replace the brain's diminished supply of dopamine. Levodopa is a cornerstone PD therapy that many patients will eventually be prescribed.

COMT inhibitors help prevent the breakdown of levodopa. By blocking the action of the COMT enzyme, COMT inhibitors work to prevent the breakdown of levodopa so more levodopa will be available to the brain.

Nonmedical approaches

Medication is the foundation of Parkinson's treatment. But the good news is that it's not the only treatment. There are many other things you can do to help stay functional and active.

Exercise. Research has shown that regular exercise in people with Parkinson's does improve:

  • Tremor
  • Balance
  • Flexibility and muscle strength
  • Gait (walking)

Your exercise program should be tailored to your personal abilities and any other health concerns, such as high blood pressure or arthritis.

For starters, you might try these:

  • “Big” exercises, such as exaggerated leg or arm movements, which may relieve motor symptoms
  • Stretching, which can increase your range of motion and relieve muscle tension
  • Tai chi, which may improve your balance and provide mind and body relaxation
  • Yoga, which uses stretching and breathing techniques to promote wellness

Nutrition. Nutrition is an important part of your Parkinson's disease game plan. While eating right is important for everyone, proper nutrition may also help prevent some common problems for people with Parkinson's disease:

  • Weight loss due to lack of appetite
  • Constipation, a common Parkinson's symptom
  • Bone health, as bone thinning may occur with Parkinson's
  • Protein intake, which can be an issue in patients who take levodopa

So what can you do? Start with a balanced diet, and try eating smaller, more frequent meals during the day if your appetite is low. Make sure to eat plenty of high-fiber foods such as whole grains, cooked dried beans, fruits, and vegetables to help with constipation.

Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K support strong bones, so make sure to include foods rich in those nutrients.

And finally, ask your doctor about protein intake if you take levodopa. Meals high in protein can interfere with your body's absorption of levodopa and may affect how it works.

Alternative therapies. Nutritional supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy…you may see claims that these and other alternative therapies help with the symptoms of Parkinson's. Some patients may benefit from therapies such as these, but it's important to discuss any treatment option with your doctor before you begin.

Surgical treatments

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is the most common surgical procedure used to treat Parkinson's disease. However, DBS is generally considered only if currently available medications are not effective or if your symptoms have progressed to the point that medications no longer provide benefit.

In DBS, neurosurgeons implant an electrode into an area of the brain that affects movement. The electrode delivers a continuous, high-frequency electrical stimulator that helps control the movement center in the brain. DBS frequently leads to a dramatic improvement in Parkinson's symptoms and may allow for a reduced dose of levodopa, which may improve levodopa-related side effects and complications. People with Parkinson's should consult with a movement disorder specialist before considering this option.



  • AZILECT® (rasagiline tablets) is indicated for the treatment of the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) as initial therapy alone and when added to levodopa later in the disease.


  • Do not take AZILECT if you are taking meperidine as it could result in a serious reaction such as coma or death. Also, do not take AZILECT with tramadol, methadone, propoxyphene, dextromethorphan, St. John's wort, or cyclobenzaprine.
  • You also should not take AZILECT with other monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
  • Inform your physician if you are taking, or planning to take, any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, especially antidepressants and ciprofloxacin.
  • If you have moderate to severe liver disease, you should not take AZILECT.
  • You should not exceed a dose of 1 mg per day of AZILECT in order to prevent a possibly dangerous increase in blood pressure. All PD patients should be monitored for melanoma (skin cancer) on a regular basis.
  • Side effects seen with AZILECT alone are flu syndrome, joint pain, depression, and indigestion.
  • Side effects seen with AZILECT when taken with levodopa are uncontrolled movements (dyskinesia), accidental injury, weight loss, low blood pressure when standing, vomiting, anorexia, joint pain, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, rash, abnormal dreams, and fall.
  • You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.