Anti Aging Today

Levodopa (L-Dopa)

In 1977, George Cotzias, et al. reported a 50% increase in the mean lifespan of rats fed very high doses of L-Dopa, the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. In another study in rats, it was shown that the incidence of movement disorders among aged rats were almost totally reversed by L-Dopa, which enabled the rats to swim almost as well as young rats. L-Dopa is used to treat Parkinson's disease patients, with major improvements usually occurring for several years followed by a steep decline in function coupled with adverse side effects. The problem with L-Dopa as an antiaging drug is its side effects at high doses, which include abnormal heart rhythms, movement disorders, mental disturbances, and a greater risk of at least one type of cancer.

Why is this medication prescribed?
Levodopa is used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease including tremors (shaking), stiffness, and slowness of movement. It also may improve your gait (walk), posture, swallowing, speech, handwriting, vigor, alertness, and sense of well-being and may control excess salivation and seborrhea (oily, crusty, scaly skin).

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

How should this medicine be used?
Levodopa comes as a capsule and tablet to take by mouth. Levodopa usually is taken several times a day. Your doctor may instruct you to take a small amount at first and then to increase your dose gradually to allow your body to adjust to this drug. You may have to take levodopa for several months before you feel its full effect. Levodopa may be taken for a long time to treat Parkinson's disease. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take levodopa exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Do not stop taking levodopa suddenly without talking with your doctor. Sudden stoppage can cause symptoms of Parkinson=s disease to return.

If you are unable to swallow the tablets or capsules, you may crush the tablets or empty the contents of the capsule and mix in fruit juice just before taking the dose.

Other uses for this medicine
Levodopa also is used occasionally to treat herpes zoster (shingles) and restless legs syndrome. Talk with your doctor about the possible risks of using this drug for your condition.

What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking levodopa:

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to levodopa, aspirin, tartrazine (a yellow dye in some processed foods and drugs), or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially MAO inhibitors [phenelzine (Nardil) or tranylcypromine (Parnate)] even if you stopped taking them in the last 2 weeks, antacids, benztropine (Cogentin), dicyclomine (Bentyl), medications for depression such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or imipramine (Tofranil), papaverine (Pavabid), phenytoin (Dilantin), tranquilizers, trihexyphenidyl (Artane), vitamin preparations with pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and other vitamins.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had glaucoma; skin cancer; hormone problems; asthma; emphysema; mental illness; diabetes; ulcers; heart attacks; irregular heartbeat; seizures; or blood vessel, heart, kidney, liver, or lung disease.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking levodopa, call your doctor.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking levodopa.
  • you should know that this drug may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this drug affects you.
  • remember that alcohol can add to the drowsiness caused by this drug.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Take levodopa with food. Avoid eating a lot of food that contains vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) such as liver, fish, whole-grain cereals, peas, and beans.

What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

What side effects can this medication cause?
Side effects from levodopa are common. Your urine will turn dark; this effect is not harmful. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • dizziness
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty in speaking
  • change in sense of taste
  • decreased attention span
  • memory loss
  • nervousness
  • nightmares
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • weakness
  • increased sweating
  • fatigue

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • unusual or uncontrolled movements of the mouth, tongue, face, head, neck, arms, and legs
  • difficulty walking, especially starting to walk ('start hesitation')
  • increased shaking of the hands
  • back and neck muscle spasms
  • fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat
  • eye pain

What storage conditions are needed for this medicine?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

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