One of the common questions that people have, especially those with a Parkinson’s patient in their house, is to know whether Parkinson’s disease hereditary or not.


The truth of the matter is that if you have a close relative suffering from the disease, the chances of you having Parkinson’s disease increases. The risk is however quite small unless you have many relatives within your blood line who have had Parkinson’s disease.


It is also estimated that about 10% of the cases of Parkinson could be inherited from your blood line. This means that genetically if you have relatives within your family who have Parkinson, your risk may be significantly higher.


Most people have what is called ‘Idiopathic Parkinson’s’, meaning that there is no known cause and no clear genetic cause. Research is being carried out on the role of genes in Idiopathic Parkinson’s, and whether there are any genes that increase your risk of developing the condition but do not have a major effect on your family’s risk of developing it.


Genes are the body’s instructions code that is passed on through generations. A change in the genetic code can make your body work in slightly different ways. Sometimes genes are passed on to the next generation and, as a result, your pre-disposition to have the same disease your parents had is higher.

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There are several changes to genes that can raise your risk for Parkinson’s, each by a little bit. They have a part in about 1 in 10 cases.


Will I get Parkinson if my parents have it?

It is rare for people to pass Parkinson’s on to their children. However, there are cases where it does seem that Parkinson’s has been passed from one generation to the next. Where this happens, there are specific genetic factors that appear to play a part, such as changes in the alpha-synuclein gene.


Alpha-synuclein is a 140 amino acid neuronal protein that has been associated with several neurodegenerative diseases. A point-mutation in the gene coding for the alpha-synuclein protein was the first discovery linking this protein to a rare l form of Parkinson’s disease that is passed on from one generation to another.

We still don’t know exactly what causes Parkinson’s. In addition to specific genetic factors that cause a condition, there are also genetic risk factors that do not mean you will definitely get the condition but may slightly increase your risk of developing it. Just as people who have inherited high cholesterol or blood pressure are at risk of heart problems, our environment and lifestyle may play a big part in deciding who actually goes on to develop certain conditions.


The number of people affected by genetic forms of Parkinson’s is very low.


If you have one or more of these changes, it doesn’t mean you’ll get Parkinson’s. Some people will, but many won’t, and doctors don’t know why. It may have to do with other genes or something in your environment.


How does environment play a role in developing Parkinson’s disease

Frequent interaction with certain chemicals used in farming may increase the predisposition to get Parkinson’s disease as does age. The older you are, the more likely you are to get this disease.

Similarly, aspects like Race (white people are more pre-disposed than non-whites), Gender (men are likely to get it than women ), Occupation (jobs that are farming-led leading to interaction with chemicals or factory jobs are more pre-disposed), Head injury (if you have had a head injury the chances go up).