Causes of Parkinson’s

Potential Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

The main risk factor for developing PD is age. Men also have a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease than women. In addition, research suggests that a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental exposures to agents such as pesticides and solvents, may contribute to disease onset, although it is very hard in most cases to pinpoint what caused someone’s PD.

Currently, there is an enormous amount of research directed at producing more answers about what causes Parkinson’s disease and how it might be prevented or cured.

Leading Possible Risk Factors for Parkinson’s

Genetic factors

Scientists estimate that about 15% of cases of Parkinson’s disease are linked to a genetic cause. The most common genetic effect that triggers Parkinson’s disease is a mutation in a gene called LRRK2 (pronounced lark-2). The LRRK2 defect is particularly frequent in families of North African or Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Mutations in alpha-synuclein have also been found to trigger Parkinson’s, but these are quite rare. In most cases, no primary genetic cause can be found.

WATCH: Interview with Dr. Clemens Scherzer on Genetics & PD

WATCH: Genetic Testing with Dr. Roy Alcalay

Environmental factors

Certain environmental factors, such as  exposure to pesticides or  solvents can increase the risk of Parkinson’s. Most people do not have a clear environmental cause for their Parkinson’s diagnosis, and because many years can pass between exposure to an environmental factor and the appearance of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, the connection is often difficult to establish.(Note: some people have a more clear connection, such as Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange,) More research is underway to better understand these and other environmental risks.

Watch our interview with Dr. Carlie Tanner on Parkinson’s & the Environment

Explore Our New Parkinson’s Resource Library

Whether you are living with PD, caring for someone with PD, or are just looking for information, check out our new resource library to see articles, videos, webinars, and more in-depth information about Parkinson’s disease.