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Parkinson's Disease

It is estimated that Parkinson's disease affects 1 to 3 percent of the population over age 50, though an increasing number of younger people are being diagnosed with the illness. Parkinson's occurs when certain brain cells degenerate, causing a depletion of the dopamine—a substance produced in the body that helps regulate movement and emotion.

There is no known cause or cure for the disease, but our Parkinson's team at Gundersen works with you to establish a treatment program that fits your needs and is personalized based on your age of onset, predominant symptoms and other medications you may be taking.

Treatments we offer

Medications - Although there is no cause or cure for Parkinson's disease, there are many medications that may alleviate the symptoms. The choice of drugs is customized to you, which means neurologists will work with you to find the best fit. A medication program will be based on your functional and cognitive impairment, ability to tolerate the medication and the advice of your doctor.

In addition to oral medication, Gundersen now offers Duopa, a gel form of the most commonly prescribed Parkinson's disease medications carbidopa and levodopa. Duopa delivers carbidopa and levodopa directly into the intestine via a portable pump. The method allows for a consistent and continuous release of medication for 16 hours per day, and may reduce side effects and the number of other medications that often are required of long-term users of oral levodopa.

Therapies - Our team may recommend changes to your exercise and diet to help lessen your symptoms. Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy specifically designed for Parkinson's patients may be recommended as part of your treatment plan. Our experts can also suggest adaptive equipment that may improve your quality of living.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) - Deep brain stimulation is a surgical option for patients with Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders such as essential tremor and medically refractory dystonia. This treatment option involves a neurosurgeon placing neurostimulators in appropriate areas in the brain to block abnormal nerve signals that cause Parkinson's symptoms.

The procedure is performed with intraoperative CT technology, which uses navigational software and a motion-sensing camera to allow for image-guided surgery. Providing real-time images, the system shows the location of the surgical instruments in relation to the patient and helps guide the doctor to more safely place the deep brain electrodes.

Once in place, a neurologist programs the stimulators, customizing the amount of stimulation based on a person's needs and reducing movement disorder symptoms.

See the life-changing power of DBS

What does it feel like to have Parkinson's disease?

Living with Parkinson's disease can be frustrating. Since the medication wears off after varying lengths of time, you never know when it may be impossible to complete ordinary tasks. Imagine wanting to get out of bed, but not being able to pull the sheet back or get up. Or think about trying to answer the phone only to discover your voice isn't working. Patients know what they want to do, but their bodies don't respond. The concentrated effort required to perform ordinary actions causes the fatigue most people live with constantly.

Why choose Gundersen?

Our team works closely with you to personalize your care so you become as functional as possible. The goal is to provide comprehensive, coordinated medical and surgical care for improved quality of life, including diagnosis, rehabilitative services and continued medical management for complex movement disorders.

We also recognize that Parkinson's disease affects more than just the patient. That's why we strive to provide support not just for you, but also for loved ones and caretakers who may be affected.

Gundersen's designation as a National Parkinson Foundation Care Center allows us to develop and share best practices with some of the best Parkinson's centers in the nation.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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