Most people who develop Parkinson’s disease do not have a family history of the disorder or a known genetic mutation. For that reason, genetic testing for this illness is not as common as it is for numerous other conditions. However, someone who has a close relative with Parkinson’s may want to have the testing done through an organization such as Pathway Genomics Corporation. Planning for possible problems in the future can be done if the results for the genetic marker are positive.
The person who tests positive cannot be certain that he or she will ever develop Parkinson’s. The mutation does not always lead to symptoms. Researchers are unsure why some people with this genetic marker eventually are afflicted with the illness while others are not. They are investigating environmental factors that may increase the risk for these individuals. In addition, there may be another genetic component that has not yet been identified.
Research has confirmed that exposure to certain chemicals increase the likelihood that a person with a genetic marker for Parkinson’s will develop the disease. Certain types of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are problematic. Rural residents who have been diagnosed may have been susceptible to exposure to agricultural chemicals. Some chemicals used in industry are linked to this illness. In addition, suffering a traumatic head injury also is a risk factor for Parkinson’s. It seems that a combination of factors usually is necessary for the illness to occur.
It appears that only about 15 percent of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s have a genetic cause for the disease. Even someone who has a close relative with Parkinson’s is unlikely to develop this illness, as the probability is only about 3 percent for those individuals. For the rest of the population, it is only about 1 percent.
People who have already been diagnosed with the disorder are encouraged to get genetic testing so they can contribute to the existing research and help build the available information. As more is learned about the causes and risk factors for this illness, determining better preventive measures, more effective treatments and even a cure has a greater probability.