A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in a parent is a frightening thing. The disease is a complicated one, and it affects people differently, making it unpredictable. You’re likely to have a lot questions about what the future holds, and what the diagnosis means for your parent and for you. One of the things you might be wondering is what causes PD and whether it is hereditary, putting you at risk for developing the disease, too.

Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

To date, doctors aren’t sure just what causes PD, but they do know the problem starts in the brain. PD begins when cells in the brain that create a substance called dopamine begin to die. Dopamine is important to the body’s function because it works like a messenger that tells other parts of the brain when a body part is supposed to move. As dopamine levels drop, it becomes harder and harder to control body movement.

Although doctors don’t know what causes the cells that make dopamine to start dying, they have identified some risk factors that make developing PD more likely. Risk factors for PD are:

  • Age: PD usually happens in people who are 60 or older.
  • Gender: Men develop PD more often than women.
  • Toxins: People who had long-term exposure to pesticides and herbicides are at a slightly higher risk.

So, what about heredity? Well, the truth is that having a close family member with PD does put you at a slightly higher risk. But, unless you have several family members who have had PD, your risks are still not much greater than the rest of the general population.

How Genes are Involved

At one time, doctors believed that genes were not involved at all. However, a study conducted in 1997 revealed that in families with several incidences of PD commonly had a mutation in a particular gene, called SNCA. Since then, scientists have discovered other genes that are involved in PD. Still, only about 10 percent of PD cases are identified as having a genetic link. Experts say that even if a person has a mutated gene linked to PD, they still may not develop the disease. Getting tested for the gene mutation doesn’t change the way a person should approach prevention of the condition or even the way the disease is treated. However, it could help with future research.

If your parent has received a new diagnosis of PD, now is the time to start thinking about future care. Eventually, your parent will require a great deal of care, likely even around the clock care. Home care can help a senior with PD to live a better quality of life in their own home. Home care providers can help your parent to get safely from place to another as mobility becomes more impaired. Home care providers can also help with basic household tasks, like cleaning, cooking, and laundry. In addition, a home care provider can help your parent stick to their treatment plan by reminding them to take medications and driving them to medical appointments.


When you are in need of care for a senior loved one, consider senior care provided by Golden Heart Senior Care. We have offices nationwide. For more information, call us today at (800) 601-2792.