In people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells in the brain slowly begin to break down and eventually die. Most of the symptoms of this degenerative neurological disease are caused by the loss of the particular nerve cells that produce dopamine, an important chemical messenger in the brain. When a person’s dopamine levels drop, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to the many symptoms of Parkinson’s. The specific cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown, but two key factors appear to play a part.
- Lewy bodies
Clumps of microscopic substances called Lewy bodies within brain cells are distinctive markers of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers believe that they hold information about the cause of Parkinson’s disease and are working to learn more about them.
Found within clumped Lewy bodies, researchers believe this substance is unable to be broken down by brain cells in those with Parkinson’s. There is a great deal of research focused on learning more about alpha-synuclein and its role in Parkinson’s disease.
What are the Risk Factors for Developing Parkinson’s?
The greatest risk factor for developing Parkinson’s is age. Patient’s usually develop Parkinson’s disease after age 60, and the risk increases as they get older – almost doubling every five years.
Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women are. One study found that the risk of developing Parkinson’s was 1.5 times greater for men than for women.
Having a close relative with Parkinson’s does increase the chances that a person will develop the disease; however, the risk is small unless they have multiple relatives with Parkinson’s. Researchers have identified some specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson’s disease, but these are only present in rare cases. While some specific gene variations do appear to increase the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease, there is still a relatively small risk of developing the disease even with these genetic markers.
- Toxin Exposure
Some studies suggest that continued exposure to pesticides and/or herbicides creates a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, but the relationship is still unclear.
Research into the causes and risk factors for developing Parkinson’s disease is ongoing. In the meantime, there are many different treatments available to help those with Parkinson’s live a relatively normal life. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, be sure to reach out to organizations, your own support network, and your doctor for help. If you are considering in-home care or simply need a break from your caretaking or home duties, please reach out to the caring staff at Specialty Care Services. We offer a number of in-home care services that you may want to consider.