It is estimated that over 80% of Parkinson’s patients experience tremor, which is one of the key symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and that causes discomfort to patient’s daily life. Medication can certainly help to ease the tremor, but there are other ways that can also help to deal with it.
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that affects more than 10 million people worldwide. The disease symptoms appear when the brain produced abnormally low levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for movement.
Tremor is the most common symptom of Parkinson’s that caused uncontrolled shaking of one or more parts of the body. Initially, it affects only one side of the body. But as the disease progresses, it may cross to the other side and ultimately appears on both sides. Beside hands, this distressing condition can also affect other parts like head, arms, legs, and feet.
Tremor can be very disturbing and embarrassing, especially in public. It interferes with hand functions and makes it very difficult for a patient to perform tasks like eating, drinking, writing, buttoning, shaving, and brushing teeth. If not treated properly, it can further worsen the disease condition.
Here are 4 ways of dealing with tremor in Parkinson’s disease.
Medication is the most effective way of treating tremor in Parkinson’s disease. There have been developed drugs that not only help to treat tremor but also other symptoms of the disease. These drugs are specifically designed to restore dopamine levels in the brain.
Levodopa (also known as L-Dopa) is the most commonly prescribed drug for Parkinson’s patients. It is the precursor of dopamine; it converts into dopamine when enters the brain.
However, the main problem with levodopa is that it loses its efficacy over time. Most of it is wasted in the blood before entering the brain. In addition, its intake also causes side effects like dyskinesia, which is an involuntary writhing movement of hands or other parts of the body.
In order to avoid these problems, levodopa is often used in combination with other drugs called carbidopa. Carbidopa blocks the breakdown of levodopa so that your brain gets the most of it and you experience fewer symptoms. It also reduces the side effects associated with levodopa.
Following are the most commonly used drugs of this combination:
In some patients, these drugs may not be effective and so can be replaced with another class of drugs called dopamine agonists. Bromocriptine, pramipexole, ropinirol, and apomorphine are the commonly prescribed dopamine agonists for Parkinson’s patients.
2. Deep Brain Stimulation – A Surgical Approach
Deep brain stimulation is recommended for those patients who are at their late stage of the disease or in a situation where medical therapy has completely failed to control the tremor. It has now become a standard treatment approach and is carried out in almost every big medical centre.
It required a surgery during which a small chip containing electrodes is installed in the brain. The chip works by reawakening parts of the brain responsible for movement function. The electrodes of the chip are connected to a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin in the upper chest area. The device controls the amount of stimulation from electrodes in the brain.
This surgical procedure is quite safe and effective. But it does have some risks and caused some side effects like depression, anxiety, seizures, dizziness, allergic reactions, loss of balance, and memory disturbance. Also, the whole surgical process is not pleasant and some neurologists may hesitate performing it.
Still, this treatment approach is very rewarding. Those who had this surgical procedure are very pleased with its outcome.
3. Hand Exercises
Parkinson’s patients are encouraged to perform various hand exercises to ease the effects of tremor. For example:
- Squeezing or rolling a ball
- Flicking the hand
- Twirling the pen
In addition, resistance exercises may also help in decreasing the magnitude of tremor. Performing resistance training or bearing weight through your hand can gain in grip strength and ease tremor to some extent.
4. Assistive Devices
There have been developed some remarkable products for people with Parkinson’s disease. Some of these are already available on the market and have brought a significant improvement in the lives of patients while others are still in the prototype stage.
Here is the list of the top 3 most innovative products that have been specifically designed for dealing with tremor.
i) Gyenno Steady Spoon
This spoon does an impressive job when it comes to eating. It helps a patient to lift the food from a plate into the mouth without spilling, thus allows to eat independently and with more confidence.
The Liftware Stabilizing Spoon is thoughtfully designed that detect shaking in the hands and remove its effects. It has the ability to reduce the shaking up to 85%.
The spoon is light, small, and handy. It comes with a case that allows a patient to take it anywhere he goes.
ii) handSteady Drinking Cup
This innovative drinking aid is a great help for people with tremor. It helps them to reduce their tremor effects while drinking so that they can have their tea, coffee or water without spilling.
It has a large, easy-grip handle that is rotatable (rotate 360 degrees). The rotatable feature allows the cup to be at self-level whilst in use, no matter what angle the cup is held at. The handle helps to avoid drinking efforts which usually faced by the user while drinking with a normal cup, like twisting the wrist, raising the elbow, or leaning the head back a spar.
The cup comes with a slip-lid, which prevents the liquid from spilling and keeps drinks hotter for longer time. Not only that, it has a drinking hole that controls the flow of liquid to the user.
iii) Emma Watch
This product from Microsoft is a great help as it allows a person with tremor to perform simple tasks like writing and drawing. It works by producing a vibration that interrupts a feedback loop mechanism between brain and hand that activates tremor. In other words, it deceives the brain from creating tremor.
The device is in the prototype stage and its early model was unveiled at the Microsoft Build 2017 conference.
Microsoft is collaborating with neuroscientists in London to test it on Parkinson’s patients. The company is hoping to launch the final product in the near future.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.