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Parkinson Disease Dementia (cont.)

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors for Parkinson's Disease Dementia?

The causes of Parkinson's disease currently remain unclear; although about 10% are genetically linked, the remainder (approximately 90%), are of unknown cause. However, what is known is that clear evidence shows neuronal cells in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra are altered and destroyed over time. The current popular theory is that combinations of environmental and genetic factors are responsible for this neuronal cell alteration and destruction. The result of these interactions results in the loss of dopamine production, loss of neurons that make dopamine, loss of other neuron-generated substances, and the presence of Lewy bodies in brain cells, all of which are found at autopsy of Parkinson's disease patients.

The major components thought responsible for these changes are not clearly defined but include exposures to toxic environmental substances, oxidation of free radicals that damage cells and their components (for example, generation of Lewy bodies from alpha-synuclein, a protein involved in neurotransmission) and mitochondrial dysfunction. People with certain gene combinations may be more likely to develop these alterations and have Parkinson's disease as a result.

Risk factors for dementia in patients with Parkinson's disease are as follows:

  • Age 70 years or older
  • Score greater than 25 on the Parkinson's disease rating scale (PDRS): This is a test that doctors use to check for progression of the disease.
  • Depression, agitation, disorientation, or psychotic behavior when treated with the Parkinson's disease drug levodopa (Sinamet, Sinemet CR, Parcopa)
  • Exposure to severe psychological stress
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Low education level
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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