Does Parkinson's run in families?

If you or one of your relatives has Parkinson’s, you may want to know if the condition is hereditary and can be passed down through your family. 

Is Parkinson’s hereditary? 

Hereditary means a condition that’s passed down from parents to children through their genes. 

Parkinson's can be hereditary, but this is very rare.
Only a small number of cases have been reported as hereditary. Most people with Parkinson's have ‘idiopathic’ Parkinson's. This means the cause is unknown.

Is Parkinson’s genetic?

Certain genetic factors can make someone more likely to develop Parkinson’s. However, it’s extremely rare for this to happen. 

Changes in certain genes (known as “mutations”) can increase your risk of Parkinson’s. But even if you carry these gene changes, it doesn’t mean you will develop Parkinson’s. 

The most common genetic cause of Parkinson’s are changes in the LRRK2 gene. LRRK2 is a large protein that's found in nerve cells in the brain. It’s also found in other organs including the heart, kidney and lungs. 

Genetic cases of Parkinson’s aren’t always hereditary. There are a very small number of people that can develop Parkinson’s and pass it down through their genes. You can find out more about this below.

Genetic changes can either cause Parkinson’s directly or they can increase your risk of having Parkinson’s. 

  • Some people with Parkinson’s carry a very rare change in a gene that causes the condition directly. People who have Parkinson's at a younger age are more likely to have a genetic link. 
  • A change in the LRRK2 gene known as G2019S is probably the most common genetic change linked to Parkinson’s. In the UK, around 1 in 100 people with Parkinson’s carry it. It’s more common in North African and certain Jewish (Ashkenazi) populations. People who carry this gene change may develop Parkinson's later in life. They have around a 75% chance of being diagnosed by the age of 80.
  • There are also genetic changes that increase your risk of Parkinson's. The most common of these is a change in the GBA1 gene. Carrying one of these gene changes means you're more likely to develop Parkinson’s, but the risk is very small.

It’s very rare for people to pass Parkinson’s on to their children.

Even if your Parkinson’s is partly caused by genetic factors, it’s not certain that you would pass the relevant genes on to your children.

However, there are some cases where it does seem that Parkinson’s has been genetically passed, or could be hereditary from one generation to the next.

Straight from the expert

Dr Patrick Lewis specialises in research into inherited Parkinson's and changes in the LRRK2 gene.

In this video, he explains whether Parkinson's runs in families.

I have Parkinson's, like my mum and nan before me

Donna was told she had Parkinson’s in her early 40s. She's the third woman in 3 generations of her family to receive the diagnosis. 

"I was convinced everyone had it wrong and that Parkinson’s was just an easy diagnosis to label me with because of my mum and my nan."

Last updated April 2023. Next review due in 2027. If you'd like to find out more about how we put our information together, including references and the sources of evidence we use, please contact us at [email protected]