Is Parkinson’s Hereditary?

Medically reviewed by Ricky Chen, MD on August 30, 2017Written by Lana Bandoim on August 30, 2017

Overview

Some cases of Parkinson’s disease are hereditary, but this is rare. This disease has been traced to different gene mutations. However, most cases of Parkinson’s have an unknown cause.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system. It causes tremors, shaking, slow movement, balance problems, and stiffness. Parkinson’s disease usually affects people who are older.

Is Parkinson’s hereditary?

Hereditary diseases are those that are passed from parents to their children through their genes. A genetic disease can be hereditary or not. Some genetic diseases are caused by random mutations that aren’t inherited from the parents.

Studies show that some cases of Parkinson’s disease are caused by genetic mutations. Hereditary causes of this disease are rare. Only 15 percent of those who have Parkinson’s disease have a family history of it. For the rest, the cause of Parkinson’s is usually unknown.

Research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may cause Parkinson’s disease.

Genes

Many genes are involved in Parkinson’s disease. Researchers continue to investigate new mutations and other genes involved in the disease.

The genes associated with Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Glucocerebrosidase (GBA)
  • LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2)
  • PARK2 (parkin)
  • PARK6
  • PARK7
  • CYP2D6
  • DNAJC13
  • CHCHD2
  • TMEM230
  • RIC3
  • SYNJ1
  • DNAJC6
  • VPS13C
  • PTRHD1
  • PODXL
  • RAB39B
  • UCHL1

Can Parkinson’s be passed from parent to child?

It’s rare for Parkinson’s disease to be passed down from parent to child. Most cases of Parkinson’s aren’t hereditary. However, people who get early-onset Parkinson’s disease are more likely to have inherited it.

Having a family history of Parkinson’s disease may increase the risk that you will get it. Having a first-degree family member with Parkinson’s raises the risk to 3 percent. This means that having a parent or sibling with Parkinson’s slightly increases the risk.

Risk factors

In most cases, the cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown. However, researchers have identified multiple risk factors that can increase your chances of getting this disease.

Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • mutations in specific genes associated with Parkinson’s
  • having a family history of Parkinson’s or a first-degree family member with Parkinson’s
  • being older, especially above the age of 60
  • exposure to herbicides and pesticides
  • being male

Prevention

Since most causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown, there are no specific prevention techniques. Research studies show that caffeine and green tea may lower your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. In addition, staying active and exercising may also lower your risk.

Studies suggest that following the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fish, vegetables, whole grains, fruit, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, may also lower your risk of getting Parkinson’s disease. Limiting dairy and red meat may also help.

If you have a family member with Parkinson’s disease, you may want to consider genetic testing. Having a gene mutation doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the disease. Getting a genetic test may help researchers understand this condition and develop new treatment options. Talk to a doctor about genetic testing to determine if it’s right for you.

When to see a doctor

There isn’t one specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Doctors will usually evaluate your symptoms and perform several tests to determine if you have the condition. If you notice the following early warning signs, then you should see a doctor.

The early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease include:

  • tremors or shaking
  • smaller handwriting
  • problems sleeping
  • loss of smell
  • problems walking or moving
  • changes to your voice, especially developing a low or soft voice
  • constipation
  • changes to your facial expressions, especially looking serious or mad
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • problems standing straight
  • slouching or leaning

If a family member has just been diagnosed, you don’t have to see a doctor. You may or may not develop the disease, and a genetic test isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get Parkinson’s disease.

The takeaway

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that affects the nervous system and is usually seen in older adults. It’s rare for people to inherit Parkinson’s disease because hereditary cases aren’t common. Genetic mutations can occur randomly, and researchers think that a combination of genes and environmental factors may cause it.

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