What causes Parkinson's disease?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease come from a lack of dopamine, which is a chemical messenger in the brain. Scientists aren't sure what causes the brain cells that make dopamine to die or stop working. Up to 20% of people with Parkinson's have a relative with the disease, so there may be a genetic component. Parkinson's may also result from environmental poisons.

Doctors do not know exactly what causes Parkinson's disease. But they think the disease stems from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. In approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of patients, there is a family history of the disease.

Other possible causes include exposure to toxins, a virus, head trauma, stroke and fluid buildup in the brain.

The cause of Parkinson's disease is not known, but scientists and doctors are trying to find out why some people get it. One thing known for sure is that people cannot catch Parkinson's disease from someone else. 

The cause of Parkinson's disease is not known, but there are some potential environmental risk factors. For example, Agent Orange exposure during a person's military service has been associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease. In fact, if people with Parkinson's have had exposure to this chemical through their military service, they may be able to get service connected through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for their routine care, medications, and any other procedures associated with Parkinson's disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.