Care for Parkinson's disease

Comprehensive care for Parkinson's disease and movement disorders in Portland

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder in which the brain slowly stops producing a chemical called dopamine. The loss of dopamine results in the person having less and less ability to regulate their physical movements, body and emotions.

A Parkinson's diagnosis is life-changing but the disease itself is not fatal. No cure currently exists. The Legacy Parkinson's Program treats this disease and other movement disorders at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland, OR  . The goal of the care team is to keep the patient’s quality of life as high as possible.


Legacy's Parkinson's Program

Legacy Health’s Parkinson's Program offers a specialized clinic that is personalized to help patients achieve and maintain an active, high-quality life. Our team of neurologists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists provide complete care in the Portland area. We collaborate with Parkinson's Resources of Oregon to provide community resources. This program is uniquely tailored to each patient and may include:

  • Medication review and update.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Speech therapy.
  • Social work services.
  • Balance training.
  • Education and information on research studies.
  • Referral to community programs for addiitonal support and resources for self and family.

Rehab specialist uses balance and physical therapy for patient with Parkinson's disease

Treatment for Parkinson's disease includes balance training and physical therapy

What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease?

The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • Rigid muscles: Stiffness when the arm, leg or neck is moved back and forth.
  • Resting tremors: Tremors (involuntary movement from contracting muscles) that are most obvious at rest.
  • Bradykinesia: Slowness in starting movements.
  • Postural instability: Poor posture and balance that may cause falls or gait problems.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s vary from person to person. The symptoms may appear slowly and in no certain order. Early symptoms may be subtle. They may slowly get worse over many years before reaching a point where they disrupt normal daily activities.

How is Parkinson's disease diagnosed?

Diagnosing Parkinson’s in the early stages can be hard. At first, signs and symptoms may look like other health problems or the effects of normal aging. For this reason, a health care provider may want to observe symptoms for a period of time until they are consistently apparent.

Right now, blood or lab tests are not used to diagnose Parkinson’s. Diagnosis is based mainly on a person’s health history and nervous system exam. This may include:

  • Neurological exam: This includes examining symptoms and their seriousness.
  • Trial test of medicines: When symptoms are severe, a trial test of medicines (mainly levodopa or L-dopa) may be used. If symptoms ease from the use of levodopa, this suggests a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
  • CT scan: This imaging uses X-rays and a computer to make images of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • MRI: This test uses large magnets, radio waves and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

Treatment options

Since Parkinson’s disease results in less dopamine, diet and physical activities, such as physical therapy and exercise, can increase dopamine levels. A patient may also be given medications as the disease progresses. A patient’s care team will develop a treatment plan unique to each individual.

Deep brain stimulation

One available treatment option is deep brain stimulation (DBS). Here, a surgeon places an electrode inside the brain to block signals that cause tremors and other movement problems. Learn about DBS.


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