Researchers aren’t yet certain what causes Parkinson’s. There are several factors that may contribute to the disease.
1. Genetics. Some studies suggest that genes play a role in the development of Parkinson’s. An estimated 15 percent of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of the condition. The Mayo Clinic reports that someone with a close relative (e.g., a parent or sibling) who has Parkinson’s is at an increased risk of developing the disease. It also reports that the risk of developing Parkinson’s is low unless you have several family members with the disease.
2. Environment. There’s also some evidence that one’s environment can play a role. Exposure to certain chemicals has been suggested as a possible link to Parkinson’s disease. These include pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. It’s also possible that Agent Orange exposure may be linked to Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s has also been potentially linked to drinking well water and consuming manganese.
3. Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of proteins found in the brain stem of people with Parkinson’s disease. These clumps contain a protein that cells are unable to break down. They surround cells in the brain. In the process they interrupt the way the brain functions.
4. Loss of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter chemical that aids in passing messages between different sections of the brain. The cells that produce dopamine are damaged in people with Parkinson’s disease. Without an adequate supply of dopamine the brain is unable to properly send and receive messages. This disruption affects the body’s ability to coordinate movement. It can cause problems with walking and balance.
5. Age and gender. Aging also plays a role in Parkinson’s disease. Advanced age is the most significant risk factor for developing Parkinson’s disease. Scientists believe that brain and dopamine function begin to decline as the body ages. This makes a person more susceptible to Parkinson’s. Gender also plays a role in Parkinson’s. Men are more susceptible to developing Parkinson’s than women.