Capital Area Parkinson's Society

CAPS Connects Parkinson’s Disease Patients With Providers of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Systems

Living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) poses unique challenges, and the Capital Area Parkinson’s Society (CAPS) is at the forefront, providing unwavering support, education, and resources to the PD community in Central Texas.

In this post, we’re discussing deep brain stimulation (DBS) and its potential benefits in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms when medication alone does not provide the level of therapy desired. 

The Connection Between Parkinson’s Disease and Deep Brain Stimulation

Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder that is both progressive and degenerative in nature, meaning that it worsens over time. The disease affects the nervous system and movements controlled by nerves.

As Parkinson’s advances it’s characterized by a decline in dopamine producing cells in the motor region of the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that regulates movement and motor control among other things. As dopamine declines with Parkinson’s Disease, it impacts the ability to control and or initiate movement. 

Deep brain stimulation, known as DBS, utilizes a safe and proven implanted device that is designed for use in later stages of Parkinson’s Disease to mitigate symptoms when medications alone are no longer effective in the management of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. 

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms 

Capital Area Parkinson’s Society has found that most researchers believe Parkinson’s Disease is caused by a combination of genetics, environment, and aging. Although the exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is not known, the symptoms are clearly defined. Parkinson’s Disease symptoms include both motor and non-motor actions. 

Common motor symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Slowed movements
  • Rigidity
  • Stiffness
  • Postural Instability
  • Speech 

Common non-motor symptoms include:

  • Sense of smell decreased
  • Muscular and joint pain
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction

Benefits of DBS for Patients With Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease causes a disturbance in motor symptoms due to low dopamine levels in the brain that lead to abnormal signaling. Deep brain stimulation has proven to be a safe and effective way to reduce symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease such as: 

  • Tremors
  • Slowness
  • Rigidity
  • Uncontrolled movements
  • Incontinence
  • Moodiness

Some of the other notable benefits of DBS to control Parkinson’s Disease symptoms include: 

  • Reduces medications taken. 
  • Reduces freezing and dyskinesia sometimes caused by medications
  • Marked improvements in minor functions and sustained improvement for at least 5 years.

CAPS must note that results vary from patient to patient, however DBS has proven most successful in slowing disease progression when performed during the period when prescribed medication alone does not suppress Parkinson’s Disease symptoms.

How Deep Brain Stimulation Works

Deep brain stimulation is designed to help regulate dopamine signals through targeted electrical stimulation. This is achieved by surgically implanting a small device that sends signals to specific portions of the brain.

DBS treatment is a joint effort between your neurologist, surgeon and the provider of the deep brain stimulation implanted system components. After determining that DBS is right for you, your neurologist or surgeon will surgically insert a wire called a “lead” under the scalp and insert it into the target area. These leads are connected to one or two wires known as “extensions” that are connected to a programmable battery source or “stimulator”. This stimulator is implanted under the skin usually in the chest area. It sends an electrical signal or pulse to the lead and into the targeted area of the brain. This process stimulates the production of dopamine, increasing dopamine levels in the brain. 

Parkinson’s Disease affects each individual differently and may be symmetrical or asymmetrical affecting either one side or both sides of the body. The neurologist or surgeon will program the stimulator pulse to achieve the desired therapeutic results. All current DBS products on the market must be programmed to the specific PD patient to ensure the leads are within the target areas and of the amplitude desired to control symptoms commonly associated with Parkinson’s Disease. 

Several DBS systems are available on the market from Boston Scientific, Medtronic, and Abbott. Capital Area Parkinson’s Society (CAPS) has created a community in Central Texas for people living with Parkinson’s Disease that provides education, support, and assistance. CAPS maintains relationships throughout Central Texas with each of these providers and can assist in facilitating any questions that you might have. 

Conclusion: PD Patients Can Find Relief From Symptoms With DBS

The best way to control the progression of Parkinson’s Disease is to be proactive and to identify treatment options that work best for each individual. Capital Area Parkinson’s Society is here to assist you in identifying resources that can assist you in your journey with Parkinson’s Disease and evaluating resources to learn more about deep brain stimulation. We’re also happy to assist you in contacting the appropriate neurologist or other movement disorder specialists specializing in DBS therapy. 

There is no set timing for deep brain stimulation surgery. Having said that, it is best if DBS surgery is performed while symptoms are still responding to medications and therapies such as levodopa but medications alone are not able to control motor symptoms. Once a DBS system has been implanted and programmed, most Parkinson’s Disease symptoms can be controlled for five years or more.

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