Is Parkinson's Disease Hereditary?

Is Parkinson's Disease Hereditary?

Parkinson’s disease affects about one million Americans and 10 million people worldwide. With 60,000 new cases annually, it’s second only to Alzheimer’s as the most frequently diagnosed neurodegenerative disease in the United States.

Board-certified neurologist Andrew Lerman, MD, of Gables Neurology in Miami, Florida, is well-known for developing highly effective, personalized care strategies for progressive neurological disorders such as dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.

Dr. Lerman is also actively engaged in ongoing research and clinical trials that are focused on the origins as well as the development of cutting-edge treatments for these complex diseases. He explains how genetics may increase your risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Understanding Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease that causes nerve cells (neurons) in your brain to gradually break down (degenerate) and die. The neurons most affected by Parkinson’s are those that produce a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) called dopamine.

Your brain uses dopamine to:

Dopamine also plays a vital role in fine and gross motor control or voluntary muscle movement. Writing requires fine motor control. Larger movements such as waving your arms or walking require gross motor control.

Although we know that Parkinson’s is related to neurodegeneration and resulting declines in dopamine, it’s not clear what causes the neurons to break down. 

Genetic links to Parkinson’s disease

Research results regarding a genetic link to Parkinson’s are mixed. Approximately 15% of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of the disease that may be linked to mutations identified in several genes.

These changes have varying effects. A PARK7 gene mutation, for instance, affects production of a protein that normally protects structures (mitochondria) within your cells from damage. Individuals with this mutation may be at higher risk of developing early-onset Parkinson’s. 

In some cases, the genetic changes are inherited from just one parent (autosomal dominant). Others are related to gene mutations inherited from both parents (autosomal recessive) who may have never developed Parkinson’s symptoms but transferred the genetic variants to their offspring. 

Much of today’s research focuses on how these changes cause Parkinson’s and why some people with similar mutations develop the disease and others don’t.

Most specialists believe Parkinson’s disease is likely connected to a combination of genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors such as exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, as well as injury related to multiple concussions or other head trauma.

Treating Parkinson’s disease

Because there’s no cure for Parkinson’s yet, treatments focus on preventing symptoms such as tremors, gait instability, or difficulty with concentration from interfering with your quality of life. 

Dr. Lerman’s participation in current research programs and clinical trials ensures his patients receive the most effective and advanced treatments available for Parkinson’s. 

Otherwise, every individual responds differently to Parkinson’s disease and effective care strategies require a comprehensive and customized approach that’s tailored to fit your needs. 

Your plan may, for instance, include a medication that replenishes your dopamine levels or one that simulates dopamine’s effects on your brain activity. Because Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder, your medications may need adjustment over time. 

Other treatments include physical therapy to improve muscle strength and flexibility or occupational therapy to help you manage daily activities. Healthy habits such as routine exercise and a nutritional diet are also vital in successfully managing Parkinson’s.

For an accurate diagnosis and highly effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Lerman at Gables Neurology today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online. 

You Might Also Enjoy...

Help! My Teen Has a Concussion

Help! My Teen Has a Concussion

Fortunately, most teens recover fully after a concussion, but proper care during the healing process is crucial. Here’s what to expect after a concussion and tips for helping your adolescent manage during their recovery.
Our Favorite Tricks for Improving Memory

Our Favorite Tricks for Improving Memory

While you might like to forget a few of your youthful adventures, many adults worry about losing their mental sharpness as they age. Our neurological team is happy to provide tips for keeping your memory intact as the years progress.

Diet Changes That Support Brain Health

Can changing the foods you eat guarantee a healthy brain? Probably not. However, your diet can do much to help ensure your brain receives the nutrients it needs for healthy function. Learn more from our team about diet and brain health.
Neurological Conditions That May Be Hereditary

Neurological Conditions That May Be Hereditary

Some neurological conditions are inherited and easily identifiable at birth. Others develop slowly over time and may or may not be related to genetics. Still, it’s important to understand your family history. Here’s why …