Parkinson’s syndrome is a movement-related neurological condition. Symptoms appear increasingly, often beginning with a tremor in just one hand. Tremors are normal. But the disorder often connects with stiffness or slowing of movement.
In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face can have little or no expression. When you walk, your arms can not swing. Your speech can become slurred or soft. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as the disease progresses.
While Parkinson’s disease is not curable, medications can help to reduce your symptoms. Occasionally, your doctor can recommend surgery to control specific areas of your brain and improve the symptoms.
The Most Common Causes of Parkinson’s disease
There is a link between dopamine deficiency, brain degeneration, and Lewy body accumulation in Parkinson’s disease. Still, it is unclear if one of these problems occurs first and causes the others or whether another disease triggers them.
1. Deficiency in Dopamine
A deficiency of dopamine is the most direct cause of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. This substance is a neurotransmitter, which means it sends signals to neurons.
Dopamine helps the body create smooth physical movements by modulating muscle control. It accomplishes this by stimulating several brain regions involved in the movement.
When a person with Parkinson’s disease has a dopamine deficiency, the symptoms include:
- Resting tremor
- Muscle rigidity
- Decreased balance
- A general decrease in physical movement
Dopaminergic drugs such as Sinemet (carbidopa/levodopa) and Mirapex (pramipexole) imitate the action of the body’s deficient dopamine. They may also relieve PD symptoms for years.
Another problem associated with Parkinson’s disease is the loss of neurons in the substantia nigra. It is an area of the midbrain. The midbrain is a part of the brainstem. It is the lowest part of the brain, connected to the spinal cord. The substantia nigra produces dopamine, which activates cells in the basal ganglia.
Changes in the substantia nigra are often visible on brain imaging tests, but not always. Treatment does not serve to slow or repair degeneration.
3. Lewy Bodies and Alpha-Synuclein
Parkinson’s disease is associated with an accumulation of intracellular inclusions within neurons known as Lewy bodies, in addition to dopamine deficiency and neuronal dysfunction. According to research, the Lewy bodies are made up of a protein known as alpha-synuclein.
They are not seen in brain imaging studies but have been seen in research studies that examine the brains of people who have Parkinson’s disease and have donated their own brains to science for research purposes. At the moment, there is no known treatment or procedure for removing Lewy bodies.
Lewy bodies are present in the substantia nigra as well as other areas in Parkinson’s disease. These include:
- The amygdala and locus coeruleus (which deal with emotions)
- The raphe nucleus (which deals with sleep)
- The olfactory nerve (which controls smell)
These regions’ functions can affect Parkinson’s disease. But the signs aren’t as noticeable as tremors and muscle stiffness.
Lewy bodies are also present in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. And they are a sign of neurodegeneration.
Possible Parkinson’s Disease Triggers
Although there is a dopamine deficiency, cell loss in the substantia nigra, and an accumulation of Lewy bodies and alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease, the cause of these changes is unclear. Experts believe that inflammation, or the rise of immune cells, is at the root of this damage. Oxidation, a toxic chemical reaction, is present in Parkinson’s disease. Researchers also observed damage to the mitochondria, which provide energy in human cells.
However, the trigger factor that causes inflammation, oxidation, and mitochondrial damage have yet to be identified. Over the years, researchers suggested many theories about the initial cause, such as infections or exposure to toxins. However, no toxin or virus is associated with Parkinson’s disease. Experts think that a genetic predisposition associated with environmental factors cause PD.
Other Causes of Parkinson’s
1. The genetic causes of Parkinson’s
A 2020 study of 1,676 people with Parkinson’s disease in mainland China found that genes play a role in the disease’s development. An estimated 10 to 15% of Parkinson’s patients have a family history of the disease.
Even so, a variety of specific genes are related to the development of Parkinson’s disease.
How does genetics play a role in Parkinson’s disease in some families? According to Genetics Home Reference, one possible method is through the mutation of genes responsible for the production of dopamine as well as certain proteins essential for brain function
According to some newer research from 2021, treatments may potentially be tailored to a person’s unique genetic background. However, first, we need more research on the genetic forms of the disorder.
2. Environmental causes of Parkinson’s disease
There is some evidence that the environment can influence Parkinson’s disease. Researchers proposed chemical exposure as a potential cause of the disease.
There are some examples:
- Insecticides and other pesticides
According to VA Health Care, Agent Orange exposure can also cause Parkinson’s disease.
In some older research, such as one from 2009, Parkinson’s disease has been connected to drinking well water. A 2020 national study shows that this might not be the case. We need more research to determine if well water is associated with an increased risk.
Some studies, such as a 2020 study conducted in Morocco, also links excessive manganese consumption, an essential trace mineral, to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
However, not everyone who is exposed to these environmental factors develops Parkinson’s disease. Some researchers think the causes of Parkinson’s disease a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Parkinson’s disease risk factors include:
- Age. Just a small number of young people suffer from Parkinson’s disease. It usually starts in middle or late life, and the risk rises with age. People who are 60 or older are more likely to develop the disease.
- Heredity. Having a close relative who has Parkinson’s disease raises the risk of developing the disease. However, unless you have a large number of Parkinson’s disease relatives in the family, your chances remain low.
- Sex. Men are more likely than women to have Parkinson’s disease.
- Exposure to toxins. Herbicides and pesticides can raise your risk of Parkinson’s disease slightly if you are exposed to them on a regular basis.
- Family history. You’re more likely to get it if your parent, brother, or sister has it.
- Work. Some jobs, such as farming or factory work, can expose you to chemicals linked to Parkinson’s disease
- Race. It is more common in white people than in other groups.
- Serious head injury. If you hit your head hard enough to lose consciousness or forget things, you are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease later in life.
- Where you live. People in rural areas tend to get it more often, which may be linked to fertilizers and pesticides.
The Bottom Line
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder characterized by neurological changes in the body.
The causes of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. Environmental and genetic factors, on the other hand, can play a role. Experts also found strong links between past traumatic brain injury and toxicity exposure.
Exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding toxins can help prevent Parkinson’s disease, although there is currently no evidence to confirm the specific cause.