Former college football coach Mark Richt announced Tuesday that he is taking levodopa to treat Parkinson’s disease.

The former head coach of the University of Georgia and the University of Miami asked his Twitter followers to pray for “good results and no side effects.”

Richt announced in July 2021 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, calling it a “momentary light affliction compared to future glory in heaven.” Approximately 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, according to the National Institutes of Health, a neurodegenerative disease that affects the central nervous system and is best known for causing body tremors and stiffness in limbs.

The life expectancy for someone suffering from Parkinson’s around age 60 is between 10 to 20 years.

Richt’s public battle with the disease has prompted the question about treatments and what levodopa is.

Considered the first-line drug for managing the effects of Parkinson’s on a person’s motor skills, levodopa is the “most potent medication” for the disease, according to The Parkinson’s Foundation. The drug was first developed in the 1960s and marked “one of the most important breakthroughs in the history of medicine.”

The Mayo Clinic said that the drug is available in several different dosages, including as a tablet, extended release tablet, extended release capsule or disintegrating tablet. 

Once digested, levodopa is absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine and travels to the brain, where it is converted into dopamine. The release of dopamine stimulates the dopaminergic receptors in the brain, according to the NIH, and compensates for the depleted supply of endogenous dopamine that results from Parkinson’s.

Taking levodopa can help control the disease’s symptoms and allow a patient to get back to regular daily activities. 

The drug is often given alongside carbidopa, which suppresses feelings of nausea and vomiting related to consuming the drug. These medications are only available with a doctor’s prescription. 

The most notable brand names for levodopa are Amneal Pharmaceuticals’ Rytary, Merck’s Sinemet 10-100 and generic versions of Parcopa.

Understanding how to treat Parkinson’s is a growing concern for healthcare organizations as the prevalence of the disease is rising in younger adults, according to a BlueCross BlueShield report from 2020.