Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson's disease is progressive, and there is not yet a cure, so it is important to receive care from a center that offers the full range of treatment options. As a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, Duke is recognized for the expert care and comprehensive services our Duke movement disorder specialists provide to people with Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. We offer the latest in lifestyle, medical, and surgical treatments, as well as support services to improve your quality of life. 

Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence

With a designated Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, Duke Health provides the highest level of diagnosis services and medical and surgical treatments for people with Parkinson's disease. We aim to help you "Move More" through a comprehensive care approach, by training tomorrow’s leaders in movement disorder care, and through our research efforts.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease

Doctors typically diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your symptoms, your complete medical history, and a physical and neurological exam. Based on the results, you may be referred to a center that specializes in movement disorders care or to a movement disorder specialist. Your provider may also suggest tests such as a dopamine transporter scan (DaTscan), MRI, genetic testing, or other blood tests.

DaTscan is an FDA-approved imaging test for evaluating Parkinson’s. This test detects levels of dopamine transporters (DaT) in certain areas of your brain. DaTscan results are useful for your doctor when your diagnosis is unclear. 

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Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease

Our treatment options help relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s and improve your quality of life.

The most effective medications for Parkinson’s disease are based on restoring levels of dopamine. Such medications include levodopa (Sinemet) and dopamine agonists. Our clinical trials are constantly testing new possibilities to improve and broaden your options. Our specialized clinical pharmacist is available to help you manage your medications, minimize side effects, and reduce medication costs. 

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery
DBS is an option for people whose symptoms fail to respond to medications, or who experience serious side effects from medications. Similar to heart pacemaker technology, very thin wires (“electrodes”) are implanted into movement control areas of your brain to interrupt the abnormal activity causing symptoms like tremors and slowness.

Programs designed specifically for Parkinson’s patients meet several times a week at the Duke Health and Fitness Center. The exercises help you control your motor symptoms.

Physical and Occupational Therapy
Comprehensive physical and occupational therapy is delivered by highly trained therapists who specialize in issues relating to Parkinson’s. Therapists are available for patient evaluation and treatment, and to offer education to you and your family. 

Speech and Language Therapy
Our speech-language pathologists help you adapt to changes in speech and cognitive-communication, as well as swallowing difficulties that may accompany Parkinson's disease. Our speech pathologists also undergo rigorous training and are certified to provide Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, an intensive program that improves speech and voice in people with Parkinson's disease. We can also help you develop successful strategies for communication and swallowing as your disease progresses, and help you learn to use augmentative and alternative communication, when appropriate.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Our designated center of excellence is located at the Duke Neurology Morreene Road clinic.

Why Choose Duke

Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence
With a designated Center of Excellence, Duke has been recognized for offering the latest options to treat Parkinson’s disease, helping set global care standards, participating in research to improve Parkinson’s care, offering patient education programs, and training providers who want to treat Parkinson’s disease. The center is located at the Duke Neurology Morreene Road clinic.

Comprehensive Care
Our program brings together specially trained neurologists and neurosurgeons; social workers; and physical, occupational and speech therapists to comprehensively treat and support people with Parkinson’s disease. We train the next generation of Parkinson’s disease care providers in best practices.

Social Work and Support Services
Our licensed clinical social workers provide counseling services to you and your family. We often make referrals to a wide range of additional support services, including medical disability application and other assistance programs. We also offer discussions, classes, and support groups to help you or your loved ones cope with your diagnosis. 

Find a Support Group

Visit our event directory or find out more here about our monthly support groups.

Latest Diagnostic and Medical Advances
Our clinical trial activity ensures we are up to date on the newest drugs and therapies available today, while our scientists work to identify even better treatment options. Duke researchers are investigating new ways to diagnose and treat Parkinson’s disease, including biomarker discovery, advanced DBS techniques, and more. 

Research and Clinical Trial Access
Our scientists have helped make significant discoveries about the causes of and potential treatments for Parkinson’s disease. As a Duke patient, you may have the opportunity to participate in our clinical trials. By doing so, you can help to establish new discoveries and treatments. 

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This page was medically reviewed on 12/08/2023 by