The Role of Dopamine

Due to the loss of specific brain cells, people with Parkinson’s disease produce less dopamine. Dopamine is a vital chemical that transmits messages to the part of the brain responsible for movement and is also important in the reward centers of the brain. Insufficient dopamine causes movements to be slower and may cause tremor. Over time, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease slowly become more pronounced.

Parkinson’s Disease Statistics

  • Parkinson’s disease generally affects individuals over age 60.
  • 1,000,000 Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease.
  • 17,000 Coloradoans have Parkinson’s disease.
  • 4% of all individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s are under age 50.
  • Men are more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than women.
  • $25 Billion – The annual cost of Parkinson’s disease to the United States

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

While the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not known, experts suspect it may be a combination of genetic and environment factors. Age is considered a risk factor.

Genetics and Parkinson’s

A number of gene mutations that have been associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease including mutations in the parkin, PINK1, LRRK2 DJ-1 and glucocerebrosidase (GBA). Although genetics may be a contributing factor the majority of Parkinson’s cases are not genetically related. If you have a parent or sibling with Parkinson’s, you have a slightly higher risk of getting PD.

Environment and Parkinson’s

Studies indicate that environmental toxins may contribute to Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, there is a higher incidence of Parkinson’s in rural communities with well water that may have a heavy concentration of manganese and pesticides. Prolonged exposure to some chemicals may elevate the risk of PD.

  • Insecticides – permethrin and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH)
  • Herbicides – paraquat and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid
  • Fungicide – maneb.
  • Agent Orange

Limited exposure to environmental toxins doesn’t cause Parkinson’s. There is no conclusive evidence that environmental factors alone cause Parkinson’s.