The Timing of Parkinson’s Medications

When my dad was initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013, he began taking levodopa in order to help to curb his symptoms.

Initially, his symptoms were somewhat mild. He’d noticed a shaking in 1 of his feet. Eventually the tremor made it up through his leg before appearing on the other side of his body, too. Medications help to manage those symptoms.

Avoiding "off periods"

From the start, his doctor recommended that he should take extra care when timing his medications. The goal of the physician appeared to be to maintain a consistent flow of medication because this would theoretically allow the greatest sense of control over symptoms like tremors and freezing.1

Feeling that he wanted to hold off on medicating for as long as he could, sometimes my dad would take his levodopa less frequently than recommended. He was in it for the long-haul, and he wanted the medication to remain effective with few side effects for as long as possible.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

But as my dad became more consistent with his delivery of levodopa, he found that it was easier to avoid "off periods" by maintaining a consistent medication regimen.

However, even with that regularity, sometimes he was surprised by the glitches in the matrix. Perhaps because of his diet, or some other factor, he would still experience "off" periods - even when medicated.

Protein intake

Today, he takes his medications at about the same time every day. But he’ll make exceptions to this rule if he intends to eat a lot of protein on a particular day.

For example, if he eats eggs for breakfast, he’ll usually wait an extra hour or 2 before taking a dose of levodopa because he knows that the protein substantially impacts the medication’s effectiveness.

Dad explained: "If I eat protein, I normally have to wait an hour and a half to 2 hours before I take my drugs." Doing so seems to give his body a chance to process the protein, which allows for the better use of his medication when he takes it.

When I asked him about his current levodopa regimen, he told me that he takes it: "Every 2 and a half to 3 hours. I start in the morning and I end it at about 7 or 8 at night."

The impact of deep brain stimulation

Since undergoing deep brain stimulation in 2019, Dad seems to think that the frequency with which he takes his medications has gone down, which seems like a tremendous win to me.

He typically times his medications with the events of his life, allowing extra time and flexibility in his schedule in order to keep himself safe.

Managing the side effects

Part of Dad’s strategy in his medication regimen is intended to help him to manage levodopa-specific side-effects. For example, dyskinesia seems to be a result of having taken levodopa regularly.

If he knows that he has somewhere to be on a particular night, he may take an extra dose of levodopa to delay that side effect. And it usually takes anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes for the drugs to take effect.

Since Parkinson’s is degenerative, I think that my dad’s relationship with medication will continue to change and adapt over the coming years. And it’ll be interested to see where we end up!

I encourage you to consult your physician for assistance when monitoring your own medications. This should not be interpreted as medical advice.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.