Parkinson’s disease is a common degenerative condition, especially in people over the age of 60. Although it runs in some families, the cause is unknown for the majority of people with Parkinson’s.

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Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain health condition. It causes symptoms such as hand tremors, difficulties with balance, slurred speech, and muscle stiffness.

Parkinson’s disease is uncommon in children and young adults. It’s more common in people over 60. In fact, a 2022 study determined that Parkinson’s disease may be up to 50% more common than researchers typically estimate, but estimates of its rate vary widely.

Age is the biggest risk factor for Parkinson’s. While Parkinson’s disease does run in some families, only a small percentage of people with Parkinson’s disease have a genetic link. There’s no identifiable cause for the majority of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is the most common movement-related brain disease and the second most common age-related degenerative brain disease.

A 2017 research paper estimates that at least 1% of people over the age of 60 have Parkinson’s across the globe.

In the United States, almost 90,00 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year, and nearly 1 million people currently live with the condition, reports the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Who gets Parkinson’s disease?

The risk of Parkinson’s disease increases with age. Only about 4% of people with the condition receive a diagnosis before age 50.

Parkinson’s disease is more common in men than in women. Men are about 1.5 times more likely to develop it.

A 2022 study suggests Parkinson’s is more common among people who live in certain parts of the United States. These regions include:

  • Southern California
  • southeastern Texas
  • central Pennsylvania
  • Florida
  • the Rust Belt, which includes:
    • Ohio
    • Indiana
    • Kentucky
    • Lower Peninsula of Michigan
    • Pennsylvania
    • West Virginia
    • parts of New York, Illinois, and Wisconsin

Researchers do not yet have an explanation for this trend, however.

In some people with Parkinson’s disease, the condition is linked to genetics and may be inherited. However, this accounts for only about 10% to 15% of people with Parkinson’s, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

For the majority of people who have Parkinson’s, the cause is unknown. Doctors call this “idiopathic” Parkinson’s disease.

Experts think idiopathic Parkinson’s could be linked to problems with the formation of a protein called alpha-synuclein. These proteins build up into masses called Lewy bodies and can cause damage to your brain cells.

It’s similar to how protein malformation has been linked to brain conditions such as Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although Lewy bodies have been found in people with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, the cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown.

Although there’s no known cause of Parkinson’s disease, there are a few known risk factors. These factors increase a person’s chances of developing the condition. They don’t mean a person will definitely get the condition.

Risk factors of Parkinson’s include:

  • being assigned male at birth
  • being over 60 years old
  • having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease
  • having multiple relatives with Parkinson’s disease
  • being exposed to certain herbicides and pesticides
  • working in farming or welding

There’s no way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. There isn’t a known cause, and most of the risk factors are things you can’t control, such as your age and sex.

Even factors you might be able to control, such as exposure to pesticides, have a minimal effect on risk.

With medication and treatment, most people with Parkinson’s disease have a typical life span. However, Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition. This means symptoms will get worse as the condition progresses over time.

Many people are able to manage on their own in the early years following their diagnosis, and then need assistance once the effects of Parkinson’s make self-care difficult.

You can learn more about Parkinson’s disease by reading the answers to some common questions.

Is Parkinson’s disease fatal?

Parkinson’s itself is not fatal. However, it can sometimes lead to complications or conditions that are life threatening, such as dangerous falls.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:

  • tremors in the hands and fingers
  • slowed motions
  • slowed or shuffled walking
  • muscle stiffness
  • difficulty with balance
  • stooped posture
  • loss of previously automatic body movements, such as smiling, gestures while speaking, or blinking
  • speaking softly
  • speaking quickly
  • speaking in a monotone
  • difficulty writing

Is there a cure for Parkinson’s disease?

There’s no current cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments can help you maintain your quality of life.

Today, medications are available that can slow the progression of Parkinson’s, which can delay the onset of severe symptoms.

About 1% of people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. It’s the second most common age-related degenerative brain disease.

Parkinson’s is more likely to occur in people over 60 than in younger people. Men are more likely to develop it than women.

For the majority of people with Parkinson’s, there’s no known cause.

Although the condition can sometimes run in families, only about 10% of diagnoses are genetic Parkinson’s. For the majority of people with Parkinson’s disease, the cause or specific risk factors remain unknown.

There’s no current cure for Parkinson’s, but there are treatments to manage symptoms. Many people with Parkinson’s live a typical life span.