Causes and risk factors of Parkinson’s disease

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The cause continues to be unknown, but there have been advances in the knowledge of possible molecular mechanisms and risk factors, and in environmental protection. In general, it is believed that different combinations of them could trigger the neurodegenerative process.

It is mainly a sporadic disease, although, from the end of the 1990’s up to now, genetic mutations have been found that are associated with clinical pictures more or less similar to the classic Parkinson’s disease. These genetic forms explain 2% of the sporadic cases and approximately 7% of the familial ones. In the rest of the cases, it is believed that complex genetics are involved, where combinations of genetic factors may determine an increase or decrease in the risk of having the disease.

Nowadays, it is thought that the combination of these genetic factors with environmental factors could be the cause of the majority of cases.

What is the cause of Parkinson's disease?

Risk factors

An often documented environmental risk factor is pesticides. Variably documented risk factors are rural life (“drinking water from a well”), exposure to heavy metals or head injuries. Smoking, coffee and, to a lesser extent, tea, as well as other recently described possible factors such as appendectomy, truncated vagotomy or the use of inhaled medications for bronchial asthma (salbutamol) have been associated with a lower incidence of Parkinson's, although it is not known which mechanisms make this possible.

Substantiated information by:

Almudena Sánchez Gómez
Ana Cámara Lorenzo
Maria José Martí
Yaroslau Compta Hirnyj

Published: 8 July 2019
Updated: 14 November 2019

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