Currently there is no known cause of Parkinson's or understanding of why some people develop Parkinson's and not others. This is the reason Parkinson's is often referred to as "Idiopathic (cause unknown) Parkinson's".

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What causes Parkinson’s?

Currently there is no known cause of Parkinson’s or understanding of why some people develop Parkinson’s and not others. This is the reason Parkinson’s is often referred to as “Idiopathic (cause unknown) Parkinson’s”.

There are many theories as to the causes of Parkinson’s and it is generally thought that multiple factors are responsible. 

Through research, our understanding of the possible causes of Parkinson’s is increasing all of the time. Areas of current research include: ageing, genes, environmental factors, chemical exposure and virus-like structures called prions. 

Genes and Parkinson’s

Genetic, or hereditary, Parkinson’s where Parkinson’s is passed on from one generation to the next is rare, only a very small percentage of Parkinson’s may have a direct genetic cause.

It is more common that a genetic mutation increases the risk of someone getting Parkinson’s rather than directly causing it. It appears that these genetic mutations increase the risk of getting Parkinson’s; however, even when there is a mutation present the chances of going on to develop Parkinson’s is low.  The latest information available indicates that there may be 58 gene mutations that may be implicated in various forms of Parkinson’s.  We don’t know why one person with the mutation will get Parkinson’s and another will not although many believe that environmental and genetic factors interact which may cause Parkinson’s.

Environment and Parkinson’s

Many scientists consider that Parkinson’s results from a complex interaction between a person’s genetic make-up, their life activities including environmental exposures. There is some evidence that some toxins in the environment may contribute to dopamine-producing neurons dying, leading to the development of Parkinson’s. In particular, there has been a great deal of speculation about the link between the use of some herbicides and pesticides and the development of Parkinson’s.

There are many other examples of different environmental factors leading to the development of Parkinson’s, but as yet the evidence is inconclusive. 

Other factors that increase the risk of Parkinson’s

Advancing age, being male and head injuries are potential factors that increase the risk of Parkinson’s.

Unfortunately, it is generally impossible to determine the cause of Parkinson’s in an individual.

To view the general information sheet about Parkinson’s click here.

For our full list of information sheets click here.

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