What causes Parkinson's? A frequently asked question, to which there is not yet a definitive answer. It is clear however, that some forms are hereditary, such as my case. Knowing your family medical history can be of great help, particularly when participating in clinical trials. In my family, several of us are unfortunate enough to have Gaucher disease AND Parkinson's - how lucky can you get?! A lot can be said for having good DNA! Other Parkinson's sufferers have no other members affected in their immediate family, so in these instances one would assume it is not hereditary. The question of environment has been raised many times, as to whether chemicals, pesticides, artificial additives in the food we eat - are contributing factors and ultimately responsible?
I have my own theory - call it a gut feeling or an inner voice, but invariably I follow my instincts. After having surgery on my right hip six years ago, I rapidly began to feel shaking in my left leg. Initially I thought it was merely weak leg muscles after being bedridden for many days, and barely able to walk, my thigh muscles were withered which did not aid a quick recovery. As the days went by, the shaking got worse, and spread to my left arm. It was at this point, that I had a gut feeling, knowing my family's medical history, that I may have the beginnings of Parkinson's. and it took just three months to confirm the diagnosis. Other indications quickly followed, and I was soon introduced to an array of unpleasant symptoms that manifest in this debilitating degenerative disease, and today I am not in the best of health.
Through my daily blog and writing for The Huffington Post UK I have come into contact with many fellow sufferers. There appears to be a common thread amongst some of us. Many with similar stories to my own, having had operations, found soon after surgery, that Parkinson's reared its ugly head. Knowing how stress and anxiety along with physical exhaustion can exacerbate Parkinson's at an alarming speed, this begs the question; if one was prone to get Parkinson's, could it be the extreme shock from the surgery itself to one's system, or the anaesthetic that "triggers" Parkinson's?
I'm not saying for one moment that I wouldn't have developed Parkinson's had I not had the hip surgery, for I am quite sure, that in my particular case, even without surgery, Parkinson's would have appeared at some point, just perhaps a little later on in my life. Maybe those who have the propensity towards Parkinson's could be prevented from suffering this disease if the trigger was determined. I don't know what or if any studies have been done regarding this train of thought. I would be interested to hear from any other patients who have similar stories, or from anyone who is doing research on this specific topic.
I'm all in favour of clinical trials, and have happily participated in quite a few. I view this involvement an important contribution that a patient can make. Hopefully someone somewhere will find what trigger's Parkinson's, solving the puzzle and a cure which millions around the world are waiting for will be found. I am the eternal optimist and wait in hope!