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Causes

The exact causes of Parkinson’s disease remain unknown. In the last few years, researchers have demonstrated that the development of the disease could not be traced back to one single factor. Genetics, the environment, age and other factors combine to cause Parkinson’s disease.

Loss of dopaminergic neurons is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The decrease in dopamine levels causes the part of the brain that controls movement to malfunction, causing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to appear. 

Not knowing the exact causes of the disease can make coping with Parkinson’s more difficult for some patients and their loved ones. Researchers in Quebec and around the world are continuously working to better understand Parkinson’s disease and find a cure.

Genes are like an instruction manual. They code the synthesis of molecules that make up the body. A change in these instructions can lead to different effects and potentially to diseases. 

Some of these modifications or mutations have been identified in people living with Parkinson’s disease. They increase the risk of developing the disease but are not common. Moreover, they do not always lead to the development of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is not contagious at all. There is no risk of transmitting the disease to people you interact with daily.

Hereditary diseases are passed from parents to their children, but cases of familial Parkinson’s disease are very rare (less than 2%). The vast majority of Parkinson’s cases are not transmissible. 

Having Parkinson’s disease does not affect your children’s risk of developing the disease. Similarly, your risk is not increased if your brother or sister has the disease. However, your risk may be increased if more than one person in your family has the disease.

Exposure to certain environmental factors or toxins may contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease.

The main environmental factors involved in Parkinson’s disease are: 

  • some pesticides
  • manganese
  • carbon monoxide
  • carbon sulfide
  • some heavy metals

Exposure to these factors is often occupational, such as pesticides in the case of farmers.

Many other factors contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease:
  • Age: Parkinson’s disease mainly affects people over 60 years of age and the risk of developing the disease increases over the years.
  • Population: Parkinson’s disease is more common among people with white skin.
  • Sex: More men have Parkinson’s disease than women.
  • Career: Some occupations, such as farmers or factory workers, may be more exposed to certain chemicals or toxins that increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
  • Serious head injuries: Different types of serious head and brain injuries, such as concussions, increase the risk of developing the disease.
  • Location: The number of people living with the disease in rural areas is higher. This seems to be related to agricultural pesticide exposure.

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