Ask the Doctor/Q&A with Dr. Rebecca Gilbert

Ask the Doctor/Q&A with Dr. Rebecca Gilbert


My Dad had Parkinson’s disease, and I just learned that my Grandma – his mother – also had PD. I do not currently have any symptoms of PD, but should I get genetic testing?

This is actually a very complicated question, as there are a number of genes that have been associated with PD, but most people with PD do not have one of the currently identified genetic mutations. If someone’s father and paternal grandmother have PD, that makes it more likely that an identifiable genetic mutation is involved, although you might not have inherited it. In addition, most PD mutations have what is called reduced penetrance, which means that only a subset of people who inherit the mutation actually manifest the disease. Currently, it is not standard of care for someone who does not have any symptoms of PD to get genetic testing.

For someone who already has PD, the answer about whether to get genetic testing may be different. There are clinical trials that are ongoing now and others that are set to start which are investigating treatment of PD in people who carry specific mutations. Genetic testing of potential participants in the trials is therefore necessary. If one of these trials is successful in treating PD associated with a specific genetic mutation, that will of course change the whole landscape of genetic testing for PD and make it much more widespread.

Since the topic is not straightforward, I wrote a blog addressing it which you may find helpful. You can read it here.  


My mom has periods of getting really hot and sweaty until her clothes are wet. Is this a symptom of Parkinson’s?

Yes, it can be. There are many non-motor symptoms of PD that are due to problems in the autonomic nervous system – this is the nervous system that controls body functions without us thinking about them – urination, control of blood pressure, sleep etc. One of these body functions in sweating and it can be dysregulated in some people with PD.

You can read more about this topic here.