Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease connected in any way?"
My aunt has Parkinson's and my grandmother on the same side has Alzheimer's. Should I get checked for them regularly? I'm only in my 40's now, is there an age when they set it in? Are they related as far as my family history is concerned?
I am sorry to hear that your relatives are suffering Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Both of these are neurologic diseases that are incurable but are not directly related. They are separate entities. Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that occurs from the death of dopamine-containing cells in the substantia nigra of the midbrain. Although the cause of cell death is unknown, some atypical cases run in the family. The pathology of the disease is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein protein in the form of Lewy bodies in neurons, and from the insufficient formation and activity of dopamine produced in certain neurons in the midbrain. Parkinson's disease is more commonly seen in the elderly after the age of 50. On the other hand, Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disease that occurs due to the abnormal accumulation of tau protein in the form of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain as well as the loss of neurons within the cerebral cortex. Research also indicates that there is an underproduction of a neurotransmitter acetycholine. In most cases, Alzheimer's disease is not genetically inherited, although some genes may act as risk factors. The onset of Alzheimer's disease is after the age of 65, although an earlier onset also occurs. I would recommend a consultation with a primary care doctor to get evaluated if you have concerns. The doctor may refer you to a neurologist if warranted.