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Does Parkinson's run in families?

Scientists estimate that around 1 in 20 cases of Parkinson's may be inherited.

Everyone else with Parkinson's has what's called idiopathic Parkinson's (meaning that there is no known cause).

Current research is looking into the role genes play in people developing this type of Parkinson's.

Straight from the expert

Dr Patrick Lewis researches inherited Parkinson's at the University of Reading. We asked him to give a simple explanation of whether Parkinson's runs in families.

Will my children develop Parkinson's?

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

There are cases where it seems that Parkinson's has been passed on from one generation to the next.

When this happens there are certain genes that appear to play a part.

We still don't know exactly what causes Parkinson's, but researchers have found changes in certain genes that are linked to a higher risk of getting Parkinson's.

But even if you have these gene changes, the chances of you going on to develop Parkinson's are still very low.

Having one of these gene changes simply increases your risk of developing the condition.

Just as people who have inherited high cholesterol or blood pressure are at risk of heart problems, environment and lifestyle play a big part in deciding who actually goes on to develop certain conditions.

Can I have my genes tested to find out whether I'm at higher risk?

Genetic testing is not usually available on the NHS.

Testing is sometimes offered for people thought to be at a higher risk, for example, if they have a strong family history of Parkinson's or early onset of the condition (before the age of 40).

If they have a positive genetic test, then the rest of the family may also be offered a predictive test.

These tests are only carried out after counselling and advice.

Knowing there is an increased risk of developing Parkinson's may cause unnecessary worry in people who may never go on to develop it.

If you're worried about the genetic risk of developing Parkinson's speak to your GP, specialist or Parkinson's nurse (if you have one).

They may suggest referral to a doctor or counsellor who specialises in genetic medicine.

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Inherited Parkinson's and genetic testing (PDF, 357KB)

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