WHAT CAUSES PARKINSON'S DISEASE?

While the exact cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some cases may be caused more by genetic factors and others due more to environment, with many somewhere in between.

Researchers have identified certain genes that may play a role in Parkinson’s disease, but studies are still ongoing to understand exactly how mutations in these genes are associated with Parkinson’s. Some of these mutations may cause the disease, but other mutations in Parkinson’s genes may raise the likelihood of onset but would need a separate factor — such as an environmental exposure or another genetic mutation — to ultimately bring on the disease.

While researchers have not identified a cause yet, studies have highlighted some factors that are associated with either greater or lesser risk of Parkinson's disease. Risk factors that have been identified include:

  • Advancing age
  • Family history
  • Male gender
  • Exposure to toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides
  • Head injury

While such studies do not definitively link these factors with Parkinson's disease, they highlight areas where further research may guide us to better understand risk and develop treatment strategies.

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