How do medications treat Parkinson's disease?

There are several medications used to treat Parkinson's disease. For most cases, the first treatment prescribed is a combination of levodopa and carbidopa. Levopdopa is actually a substance we already have in our bodies. You can take it in pill form and it travels to the brain, where it converts into dopamine. The carbidopa is taken with it to help make sure it doesn't convert before it reaches the brain.

Other medications include dopamine agents, which don't actually become dopamine but act like it, affecting the body like dopamine would. MAO B inhibitors keep dopamine levels up by stopping MAO B enzymes that would normally metabolize the chemical. Also, drugs called anticholinergics, beta-blockers, and antivirals may be used to help control symptoms and provide relief.

Steven A. Meyers, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
The symptoms of Parkinson's disease are due to a deficiency of a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine cannot be given to treat Parkinson's disease as it does not enter the brain. The most commonly used medication to treat Parkinson's disease is levodopa which enters the brain and is converted to dopamine. Another commonly used class of medication are the dopamine agonists which act like synthetic dopamine. They interact with the dopamine receptors in the brain mimicking the action of dopamine. 
Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Parkinson's disease stems from a loss of dopamine-producing cells in a part of the brain that controls movement. The disease is marked by symptoms such as trembling, muscle stiffness, and balance problems. Drugs that increase dopamine levels, such as L-dopa, and drugs that stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain (known as dopamine agonists) help ease the symptoms. Dopamine agonists, which include pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip), are also prescribed to treat restless legs syndrome, a condition characterized by uncontrollable urges to move the legs when lying or sitting down.

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