Supporting People Living With Parkinson Disease in Central and South Texas
The exact cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, although research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The impact and effect of environmental and genetic factors is unknown, in part because extensive studies of the epidemiology of Parkinson’s disease have not been done.
In the past 10 years, researchers have identified a number of rare instances where Parkinson's disease appears to be caused by a single genetic mutation. In these cases, the mutated gene is passed from generation to generation, resulting in a great number of Parkinson's cases within an extended family. On the opposite of end of the continuum, in the early 1980s, a group of heroin users in California took drugs from a batch contaminated with a substance called MPTP. After ingesting this chemical, the drug users were stricken with a form of Parkinson's disease that was primarily, if not exclusively, "environmental" in origin. Even today, MPTP is used to induce Parkinsonism in laboratory animals for research purposes.
For most Parkinson's patients, the cause lies somewhere in the middle. While many PD patients report one or more family members with the disease, it is not always clear that just one or even several genes are the cause. Similarly, while some patients suspect that exposure to an identifiable cause (such as an environmental toxin or a head injury) caused their PD, this also has not been conclusively proved. Scientists currently believe that, in the majority of cases, genetic and environmental factors interact to cause Parkinson's disease. Research into this subject continues aggressively every day. Unfortunately, however, it is currently not usually possible to determine specifically what caused an individual's PD.