What causes Parkinson’s disease?

Nearly 1 million people in the United States live with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s. But what causes it?

In short, when someone has Parkinson’s, neurons in the brain that make dopamine stop working or die. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that coordinates movement. When it breaks down, it can lead to problems with mobility and produce other Parkinson’s symptoms.

The cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown, but there has been research that links it to a combination of factors, including genetics, environment, and age.

According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, in the past 10 years, researchers have found genetic mutations that can increase the risk for Parkinson’s. But not everyone who carries the genes will get the disease. Environmental triggers like pesticides or toxins may play a role, and age appears to be a risk factor as well. Parkinson’s typically presents later in life, age 60 or older.

Because the cause remains unknown, there’s no proven way to prevent or cure Parkinson’s. However, research has shown that symptoms can be managed with a combined focus on intensive rehabilitation and medical management. This approach can help with muscle tone, tremors, posture, balance, walking, fatigue, communication, and other symptoms, helping to improve the quality of life of individuals living with the disease.

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