Parkinson’s disease: Causes include traumatic brain injury and lead exposure

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Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. “The nerve cells in this part of the brain are responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine,” says the NHS. Dopamine sends a signal between parts of the brain and nervous system that help control and coordinate body movements.

It is not known exactly what causes dopamine loss, but certain lifestyle behaviors have been identified.

According to a study published in the journal Parkinson’s Disease, a history of head trauma or concussion and exposure to lead may more than double the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

To determine the risk of Parkinson’s disease, the study authors said conflicting research had been published on the role of genetic factors in the pathogenesis of the disease.

As a result, they noted that Parkinson’s disease is likely caused by a complex interaction between genetic and environmental risk factors, including exposure to pesticides, toxic metals, solvents, and a history of head trauma.

READ MORE: The healthy living habit that ‘doubles your risk’ of Parkinson’s disease – a surprising finding

“Identifying environmental factors that increase the risk of PD would reduce exposure and prevent disease while facilitating the experimental investigation of mechanisms and options for intervention,” noted the study’s authors. .

With previous studies that have found a positive link between rural life and the development of Parkinson’s disease.

To gather their findings, the researchers conducted a questionnaire-based case-control study of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Participants were assessed for lifestyle factors, including a variety of specific jobs, leisure-related activities, and associated chemical exposures.

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In addition to exposure and physical activity, participants reported a family medical history of ‘diagnosed with a neurological disorder’ (Parkinon, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other) within each of the family members, ”the researchers said.

Researchers found that reports of head trauma or concussion that caused fainting or loss of consciousness before the date of diagnosis were much more common in people with Parkinson’s disease than in controls.

The association remained significant after adjusting for age, sex, smoking, family history, and athletic activity.

The family history of Parkinson’s disease in a first- or second-degree relative was also found to be significantly higher in cases than in controls.

In addition, researchers observed a 2.67 times higher risk of Parkinson’s disease associated with activities involving lead.

“The implication of these factors in the risk of Parkinson’s favors the efforts of public health in the mitigation of the exposure while motivating the future working mechanisms and the opportunities of intervention”, concluded the authors of the study. .

Other possible causes

“Parkinsonism” is the umbrella term used to describe the symptoms of tremors, muscle stiffness, and slowness of movement.

Parkinson’s disease is the most common type of parkinsonism, according to the NHS, but there are also rarer types for which a specific cause can be identified.

These include parkinsonism caused by:

  • Drugs (drug-induced parkinsonism) – when symptoms develop after taking certain drugs, such as certain types of antipsychotic drugs, and usually improve after the drug is stopped
  • Other progressive brain conditions – such as progressive supranuclear palsy, multisystem atrophy, and corticobasal degeneration
  • Cerebrovascular disease – where a series of small strokes causes the death of several parts of the brain.

How is parkinsonism diagnosed?

Parkinson’s UK explained: “You should be referred to a Parkinson’s specialist for the diagnosis of any parkinsonism.

“They may want to explore different things before giving you a diagnosis.”

Depending on the health agency, your specialist will review your medical history, ask you questions about your symptoms, and perform a medical examination.


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