Finding the source of Parkinson’s disease has been a challenge for many researchers and this year we’ve gotten a lot closer to figuring it out. There are multiple ways that one can get the neurodegenerative disease with no one factor being the deciding one. This year alone researchers have found common enzymes in people suffering from Parkinson’s and are in the process of generating faster detection methods for people so treatment can start earlier. Just this week it was revealed that a widely used chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE) has a strong association with people who have Parkinson’s- so much so that it looks like exposure to the chemical can actually cause the disease.
The report, published today in JAMA Neurology, involved examining the medical records of tens of thousands of Marine Corps and Navy veterans who trained at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 1975 to 1985. Those exposed there to water heavily contaminated with TCE had a 70% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease decades later compared with similar veterans who trained elsewhere. The Camp Lejeune contingent also had higher rates of symptoms such as erectile dysfunction and loss of smell that are early harbingers of Parkinson’s, which causes tremors; problems with moving, speaking, and balance; and in many cases dementia. Swallowing difficulties often lead to death from pneumonia.