[Epidemiology and causes of Parkinson's disease]

Nervenarzt. 2017 Apr;88(4):345-355. doi: 10.1007/s00115-017-0288-0.
[Article in German]


Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and has a growing socioeconomic impact due to demographic changes in the industrial nations. There are several forms of PD, a fraction of which (<5%) are monogenic, i. e. caused by mutations in single genes. At present, six genes have been established for the clinically classical form of parkinsonism including three autosomal dominantly (SNCA, LRRK2, VPS35) and three autosomal recessively inherited ones (Parkin, PINK1, DJ-1). In addition, there are a plethora of genes causing atypical forms of parkinsonism. In contrast, idiopathic PD is of a multifactorial nature. Genome-wide association studies have established a total of 26 genetic loci for this form of the disease; however, for most of these loci the underlying functional genetic variants have not yet been identified and the respective disease mechanisms remain unresolved. Furthermore, there are a number of environmental and life style factors that are associated with idiopathic PD. Exposure to pesticides and possibly a history of head trauma represent genuine risk factors. Other PD-associated factors, such as smoking and intake of coffee and alcohol may not represent risk factors per se and the cause-effect relationship has not yet been elucidated for most of these factors. A patient with a positive family history and/or an early age of disease onset should undergo counseling with respect to a possible monogenic form of the disease. Disease prediction based on genetic, environmental and life style factors is not yet possible for idiopathic PD and potential gene-specific therapies are currently in the development or early testing phase.

Keywords: Environment; Life style; Mutation; Risk; SNP.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Genetic Testing / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Medical History Taking / statistics & numerical data
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / epidemiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics*
  • Pesticides*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Risk Factors


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Pesticides