What causes Parkinson’s?

Medical experts are not yet certain what destroys the dopamine producing nerve cells or what predisposes some people to develop Parkinson’s and not others. Many researchers think that the condition may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and may vary from person to person. However, Parkinson’s is not an infectious disease and it is not contagious.

Genetic factors

A major percentage of PwPs do not have a hereditary factor contributing to their illness. The exact cause is still unknown and research is being done in this area.

However, around 15-25% of PwPs do report having a first relative with Parkinson’s. By studying family members with Parkinson’s, scientists have been able to study the role of genes in causing Parkinson’s. It is thought that in the future, this would enable in finding a newer therapies to combat the disease.

Several genetic mutations have been identified to increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s. The important genetic mutations which have been identified so far are Park 1 (alpha-synnuclein) and LRRK2. However the role of genetics in causing Parkinson’s still remains unclear. A lot of research is still ongoing to find more about genetics and its link to Parkinson’s. Scientists feel that a genetic susceptibility to certain environmental toxins may increase the risk of developing the condition.

Environmental factors

Some scientists attribute exposures to certain environmental toxins as having a causal role in the development of Parkinson’s. It is thought that these toxins may cause the dopamine producing neurons in the brain to die, eventually leading to Parkinson’s.

A few research studies have implicated that Parkinson’s may be caused by an exposure to herbicides and pesticides and a few others have suggested at the role of exposure to metals like Manganese.

Even though there are no known causes of Parkinson’s, the potential risk factors believed to contribute to the development of for Parkinson’s are enumerated below:

Potential risk factors for Parkinson’s are enumerated below:

  • Age -The single biggest risk factor for developing Parkinson’s is advancing age especially over the age of 60.
  • Gender-Men have a slightly increased risk compared to women
  • Family History- A few research studies have found out that an individual with a first degree relative with Parkinson’s may have a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Head injury – An increased risk of Parkinson’s is associated with trauma to the brain.
  • Environmental risks – Exposure to herbicides and pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s
  • Exposure to metal – Workers exposed to manganese in mines in India have developed Parkinsonian features.
Can Parkinson’s be prevented?

To date, despite intensive research, there is no known prevention for Parkinson’s.