Parkinson's disease

Causes of Parkinson's disease

While it is known that the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease occur when many nerve cells in the substantia nigra area of the brain die, it is still unclear what causes these cells to die. A review of the latest research evidence from the Parkinson's UK suggests that a combination of genes and the environment may trigger the disease. Genetic research has identified genes which are linked to Parkinson’s and it is possible that in some cases of young-onset Parkinson’s, one or more of these genes may be abnormal. Other research has looked for environmental causes, for example toxins which have caused the dopamine producing cells to die.

Research suggests that the make-up of people’s genes might make them more likely to get Parkinson’s disease but only if they are exposed to other factors. Some people searched their family history and both recent and more distant events in their lives for possible causes.
Gaynor does not know for certain what her grandfathers died from but her two grandmothers who both died in their nineties did not have Parkinson’s disease. She has accepted her consultant’s conclusion that it was just ‘the way the dice had fallen’. Stephen, having found no history of PD in his family looked at his life and found it blameless - he had never smoked, hardly ever drank and led an active life. Rafa on the other hand did wonder for a moment whether his very active life, in which he had trained and run in marathons, could have caused his PD. But his consultant quickly convinced him that this was unlikely.
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Several people believed very strongly that their Parkinson's disease might have been triggered by exposure to a substance later found to be harmful. Steve had worked for thirty years in a car factory and wondered if that had any bearing on his developing PD but he had also seen somewhere that there was an association between rhinitis (which he suffered from) and Parkinson’s disease.
Several people speculated about the possibility that stress had been precipitated their condition. Judie had had a series of distressing events and can’t help feeling that they may have started it all off. For Humphrey and Mari it was important to be able to be confident that his developing Parkinson’s disease was in no way connected with their daughter's serious accident shortly before his symptoms began.
Most people accepted that they will never know why they developed the condition.

Last reviewed May 2017.
Last updated May 2017.

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