The Genetics Of Parkinsons
A 2020 study including 1,676 people with Parkinsons in mainland China suggested that genes play a role in the development of the condition. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with Parkinsons have a family history of the condition.
In fact, a number of specific genes have been linked to the development of Parkinsons.
How do genetics factor into Parkinsons in some families? According to Genetics Home Reference, one possible way is through the mutation of genes responsible for producing dopamine and certain proteins essential for brain function.
Age And Genetic Factors Are Not Everything
The rate of Parkinsons disease globally has exceeded far faster than the population has aged according to the American Parkinson Disease Association.
Cases of the disease are up by several multiples over the past decades. From 1990 to 2015, the cases of the disease globally more than doubled, suggesting that there is far more at work. From 2015 to 2040, cases are expected to double once again. This is far higher than the rate of aging in the population.
Other Causes Of Parkinsonism
“Parkinsonism” is the umbrella term used to describe the symptoms of tremors, muscle rigidity and slowness of movement.
Parkinson’s disease is the most common type of parkinsonism, but there are also some rarer types where a specific cause can be identified.
These include parkinsonism caused by:
- medication where symptoms develop after taking certain medications, such as some types of antipsychotic medication, and usually improve once the medication is stopped
- other progressive brain conditions such as progressive supranuclear palsy, multiple systems atrophy and corticobasal degeneration
- cerebrovascular disease where a series of small strokes cause several parts of the brain to die
You can read more about parkinsonism on the Parkinson’s UK website.
Page last reviewed: 30 April 2019 Next review due: 30 April 2022
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Impact On Families And Carers
Informal carers spendmany hours dailyproviding care for people living with PD.This can be overwhelming. Physical, emotional and financial pressures can cause great stress to families and carers, and support is required from the health, social, financial and legal systems. Useful support resources from other conditions can be drawn upon, such as WHOs iSupport programme for dementia.
Possible Causes Of Parkinsons Disease
While the exact cause of Parkinsons disease is currently unknown, scientists have come up with four possible theories according to the Mayo Clinic.
1. GeneticsThere are certain genes which, when they become mutated, cause Parkinsons disease. However, these mutated genes are very rare, except in cases where Parkinsons runs in the family. There are also some gene variations which seem to slightly increase the risk of developing Parkinsons.
2. EnvironmentResearchers think that there are some environmental factors and toxins which may trigger Parkinsons disease, although they feel the increased risk is small.
3. Presence of Lewy bodiesChanges happening within the brain may also be a trigger for Parkinsons disease. Lewy bodies are proteins found in brain cells which are biomarkers of the disease and may hold the key to finding out the exact cause.
4. Alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodiesThere are many different substances found in Lewy bodies, but scientists are focusing on alpha-synuclein proteins. Alpha-synuclein proteins dont break down they form clumps in the cells which are thought to contribute to the disease.
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What Are The Symptoms
The best-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease involve loss of muscle control. However, experts now know that muscle control-related issues aren’t the only possible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Motor symptoms which means movement-related symptoms of Parkinsons disease include the following:
Additional motor symptoms can include:
- Blinking less often than usual. This is also a symptom of reduced control of facial muscles.
- Cramped or small handwriting. Known as micrographia, this happens because of muscle control problems.
- Drooling. Another symptom that happens because of loss of facial muscle control.
- Mask-like facial expression. Known as hypomimia, this means facial expressions change very little or not at all.
- Trouble swallowing . This happens with reduced throat muscle control. It increases the risk of problems like pneumonia or choking.
- Unusually soft speaking voice . This happens because of reduced muscle control in the throat and chest.
Several symptoms are possible that aren’t connected to movement and muscle control. In years past, experts believed non-motor symptoms were risk factors for this disease when seen before motor symptoms. However, theres a growing amount of evidence that these symptoms can appear in the earliest stages of the disease. That means these symptoms might be warning signs that start years or even decades before motor symptoms.
Non-motor symptoms include:
Stages of Parkinsons disease
How Does This Condition Affect My Body
Parkinsons disease causes a specific area of your brain, the basal ganglia, to deteriorate. As this area deteriorates, you lose the abilities those areas once controlled. Researchers have uncovered that Parkinsons disease causes a major shift in your brain chemistry.
Under normal circumstances, your brain uses chemicals known as neurotransmitters to control how your brain cells communicate with each other. When you have Parkinsons disease, you dont have enough dopamine, one of the most important neurotransmitters.
When your brain sends activation signals that tell your muscles to move, it fine-tunes your movements using cells that require dopamine. Thats why lack of dopamine causes the slowed movements and tremors symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
As Parkinson’s disease progresses, the symptoms expand and intensify. Later stages of the disease often affect how your brain functions, causing dementia-like symptoms and depression.
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Complementary And Alternative Therapies
Some people with Parkinson’s disease find complementary therapies help them feel better. Many complementary treatments and therapies claim to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
However, there’s no clinical evidence they’re effective in controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Most people think complementary treatments have no harmful effects. However, some can be harmful and they shouldn’t be used instead of the medicines prescribed by your doctor.
Some types of herbal remedies, such as St John’s wort, can interact unpredictably if taken with some types of medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
If you’re considering using an alternative treatment along with your prescribed medicines, check with your care team first.
Changes In Cognition And Parkinsons Disease
Some people with Parkinsons may experience changes in their cognitive function, including problems with memory, attention, and the ability to plan and accomplish tasks. Stress, depression, and some medications may also contribute to these changes in cognition.
Over time, as the disease progresses, some people may develop dementia and be diagnosed with Parkinsons dementia, a type of Lewy body dementia. People with Parkinsons dementia may have severe memory and thinking problems that affect daily living.
Talk with your doctor if you or a loved one is diagnosed with Parkinsons disease and is experiencing problems with thinking or memory.
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3. Presence of Lewy bodies in the brain
Changes happening within the brain may also be a trigger for Parkinsons disease. Lewy bodies are proteins found in brain cells which are biomarkers of the disease and may hold the key to finding out the exact cause.
4. Alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodies
There are many different substances found in Lewy bodies, but scientists are focusing on alpha-synuclein proteins. Alpha-synuclein proteins dont break down they form clumps in the cells which are thought to contribute to the disease.
Parkinsons News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
The Gi Infection Link
A study published in the Journal of Innate Immunity found that acute and chronic upper gastrointestinal tract infections seem to be linked to Parkinsons disease.
According to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, along with collaborators at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions, upper GI tract infections release S.
This causes a naturally occurring immune response. But when infections are regular or chronic, they may inhibit the body from clearing S, which may lead to developing the disease.
Dr. Michael Zasloff, professor of surgery and pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and scientific director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, said scientists already knew that S accumulation is tied to Parkinsons.
Prior to performing the research, Zasloff said researchers thought S was a bad player, but its actually good because it is produced when the nervous system detects a potential pathogen.
When the protein is secreted into tissues, it attracts white blood cells that can neutralize the pathogen.
By this means the nerve can protect both itself and the surrounding tissues, he told Healthline.
But too much S, which can occur with regular infections, can become toxic to the system.
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What Are The Different Stages Of Parkinsons Disease
Each person with Parkinsons disease experiences symptoms in in their own unique way. Not everyone experiences all symptoms of Parkinsons disease. You may not experience symptoms in the same order as others. Some people may have mild symptoms others may have intense symptoms. How quickly symptoms worsen also varies from individual to individual and is difficult to impossible to predict at the outset.
In general, the disease progresses from early stage to mid-stage to mid-late-stage to advanced stage. This is what typically occurs during each of these stages:
Early symptoms of Parkinsons disease are usually mild and typically occur slowly and do not interfere with daily activities. Sometimes early symptoms are not easy to detect or you may think early symptoms are simply normal signs of aging. You may have fatigue or a general sense of uneasiness. You may feel a slight tremor or have difficulty standing.
Often, a family member or friend notices some of the subtle signs before you do. They may notice things like body stiffness or lack of normal movement slow or small handwriting, lack of expression in your face, or difficulty getting out of a chair.
Standing and walking are becoming more difficult and may require assistance with a walker. You may need full time help to continue to live at home.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies is a disease that leads to deposits of alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain. These proteins are also called Lewy bodies.
Abnormal build-up of these chemicals can cause movement, behavior, mood, and cognitive changes.
More than people in the United States have Lewy body dementia. It most often occurs in adults over 50 and can progress for 2 to 20 years from its onset to death.
- postural instability
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How Does Environment Come Into It
Your environment is a hard one to pin down. Partly, that’s because it covers a lot of ground. It’s everything that’s not your genes, which could mean where you live, what you eat, chemicals you’ve come into contact with, and more.
Not only that, but it could take years for the effects from something in your environment to show up. So far, doctors have a lot of clues but no smoking gun. So you could have people who live or work in an area around chemicals tied to Parkinson’s, but many of them don’t get it.
Some research shows links between Parkinson’s and:
- Agent Orange, a chemical used to destroy trees and crops in the Vietnam War.
- Certain chemicals used in farming, such as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- Some metals and chemicals used in factories, such as manganese, lead, and trichlorethylene .
These can come into play based on where you live, what you do for work, or if you served in the military. Sometimes, these chemicals seep into well water, so that’s one more way they can affect you.
Contact Our Information And Referral Helpline
The Parkinson Canada Information and Referral Helpline is a toll-free Canada-wide number for people living with Parkinsons, their caregivers and health care professionals. We provide free and confidential non-medical information and referral services. When you have questions or need assistance, our information and referral staff help connect you with resources and community programs and services that can help you. We provide help by phone or email, Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. ET.
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Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons has four main symptoms:
- Tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Muscle stiffness, where muscle remains contracted for a long time
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls
Other symptoms may include:
The symptoms of Parkinsons and the rate of progression differ among individuals. Early symptoms of this disease are subtle and occur gradually. For example, people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. They may notice that they speak too softly, or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. Friends or family members may be the first to notice changes in someone with early Parkinsons. They may see that the persons face lacks expression and animation, or that the person does not move an arm or leg normally.
People with Parkinson’s disease often develop a parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward take small, quick steps and reduce swinging their arms. They also may have trouble initiating or continuing movement.
Symptoms often begin on one side of the body or even in one limb on one side of the body. As the disease progresses, it eventually affects both sides. However, the symptoms may still be more severe on one side than on the other.
What Causes Parkinsons Disease
The most prominent signs and symptoms of Parkinsons disease occur when nerve cells in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls movement, become impaired and/or die. Normally, these nerve cells, or neurons, produce an important brain chemical known as dopamine. When the neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, which causes the movement problems associated with the disease. Scientists still do not know what causes the neurons to die.
People with Parkinsons disease also lose the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine, the main chemical messenger of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls many functions of the body, such as heart rate and blood pressure. The loss of norepinephrine might help explain some of the non-movement features of Parkinsons, such as fatigue, irregular blood pressure, decreased movement of food through the digestive tract, and sudden drop in blood pressure when a person stands up from a sitting or lying position.
Many brain cells of people with Parkinsons disease contain Lewy bodies, unusual clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein. Scientists are trying to better understand the normal and abnormal functions of alpha-synuclein and its relationship to genetic mutations that impact Parkinsons andLewy body dementia.
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Parkinsons Disease: Causes Symptoms And Treatments
Parkinsons disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking. They may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory difficulties, and fatigue.
While virtually anyone could be at risk for developing Parkinsons, some research studies suggest this disease affects more men than women. Its unclear why, but studies are underway to understand factors that may increase a persons risk. One clear risk is age: Although most people with Parkinsons first develop the disease after age 60, about 5% to 10% experience onset before the age of 50. Early-onset forms of Parkinsons are often, but not always, inherited, and some forms have been linked to specific gene mutations.
What Medications And Treatments Are Used
Medication treatments for Parkinsons disease fall into two categories: Direct treatments and symptom treatments. Direct treatments target Parkinsons itself. Symptom treatments only treat certain effects of the disease.
Medications that treat Parkinsons disease do so in multiple ways. Because of that, drugs that do one or more of the following are most likely:
Several medications treat specific symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms treated often include the following:
- Erectile and sexual dysfunction.
- Hallucinations and other psychosis symptoms.
Deep brain stimulation
In years past, surgery was an option to intentionally damage and scar a part of your brain that was malfunctioning because of Parkinsons disease. Today, that same effect is possible using deep-brain stimulation, which uses an implanted device to deliver a mild electrical current to those same areas.
The major advantage is that deep-brain stimulation is reversible, while intentional scarring damage is not. This treatment approach is almost always an option in later stages of Parkinson’s disease when levodopa therapy becomes less effective, and in people who have tremor that doesnt seem to respond to the usual medications.
Researchers are exploring other possible treatments that could help with Parkinsons disease. While these arent widely available, they do offer hope to people with this condition. Some of the experimental treatment approaches include:
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What Raises Someone’s Risk For Parkinson’s
It’s a complex picture, but you may be more likely to get Parkinson’s based on:
Age. Since it mostly affects people 60 and older, your risk goes up as the years go by.
Family history. If your parent, brother, or sister has it, you’re a little more likely to get it.
Job. Some types of work, like farming or factory jobs, can cause you to have contact with chemicals linked to Parkinson’s.
Race. It shows up more often in white people than other groups.
Serious head injury. If you hit your head hard enough to lose consciousness or forget things as a result of it, you may be more likely to get Parkinson’s later in life.
Gender. Men get it more than women. Doctors aren’t sure why.
Where you live. People in rural areas seem to get it more often, which may be tied to chemicals used in farming.