Alan Clark enjoyed riding his motorcycle on breezy, Sunday afternoons down the uncrowded roads near his home. In early 2015, Clark noticed that his left arm would jerk a little while he was riding. Assuming it might be associated with his back problems, Clark made a visit to his primary care provider, where they ordered a CT scan and eventually diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease.
Clark was prescribed carbidopa and levodopa, a combination of medications used to treat Parkinson’s. The medications initially worked, dramatically reducing the tremors on his left side. For the next few years, Clark was getting along fine, until the tremors worsened. This resulted in Clark taking more medications and experiencing anxiety as he found it more difficult to be around people.
“I was becoming more isolated,” Clark said. “I didn’t want to go out to restaurants or even be around my friends in church.”
Clark tried other medications for Parkinson’s, but they either didn’t work or caused serious side effects. He remained on carbidopa and levodopa for several more years, dealing with his tremors and anxiety.
Clark eventually came to the tough decision to sell his motorcycle, since he was no longer confident that he could keep his balance while riding.
In 2021, Clark was researching online and discovered deep brain stimulation, or DBS, a treatment that can help reduce the symptoms of epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.
DBS is a surgery to implant a device that sends electrical signals to brain areas responsible for body movements. Electrodes are placed deep into the brain and are connected to a stimulator device. Similar to a heart pacemaker, a neurostimulator uses electric pulses to regulate brain activity.
Once surgery is complete, the DBS device is programmed in the outpatient clinic by a neurologist. Successful DBS allows people to potentially reduce their medications and improve their quality of life.