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You may have read or heard about dopamine deficiency and supplements or diets to increase your dopamine level. Dopamine is an important brain chemical, but other than a rare, inherited genetic disorder, there is no medical diagnosis called dopamine deficiency. [1-3]
You can develop low levels of dopamine or an inability of your brain to react to dopamine, but this occurs as part of a disease process along with other changes. Two common disorders that include decreased dopamine are depression and Parkinson’s disease. Abuse of drugs like opiates and cocaine can also lead to dopamine deficiency. [1,2]
Genetic Dopamine Deficiency
The genetic disease that causes dopamine deficiency is extremely rare. In fact, there have only been about twenty cases diagnosed. It is called dopamine transporter deficiency syndrome, and also called infantile Parkinsonism. Like adult Parkinson’s disease, this disease causes abnormal muscle movements. It usually starts in infancy or childhood and gets worse over time. The most common symptoms are sustained cramps and muscle spasms. Over time, this condition becomes similar to adult Parkinson’s disease. 
What Does Dopamine Do?
Dopamine is an important brain chemical that carries messages in your brain, called a neurotransmitter. Dopamine is important for many brain and body functions. Signs and symptoms of a dopamine deficiency disease may include changes in:
- Movement control
In addition to contributing to the cause of Parkinson’s disease and depression, dopamine deficiency has also been linked to drug abuse, schizophrenia, autism, restless legs syndrome, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Dopamine deficiency includes loss of dopamine production as well as loss of nerves to respond to dopamine release. Dopamine production decreases gradually with age, which may be one reason why Parkinson’s disease occurs in older adults. [1,2,5]
Unlike a vitamin D or calcium deficiency, dopamine can’t be easily replaced with a food or supplement. Dopamine is naturally produced in your brain. When dopamine is released in your brain it acts on specific dopamine receptors. [1,4,5]
Man-made, synthetic dopamine is available as a drug, but it is not used to replace dopamine because it is unable to pass from your blood into your brain. When taken as a drug is causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. It is used in several conditions where heart rate and blood pressure are too low. [4,5]
How Are Dopamine Disorders Diagnosed and Treated?
Although there is a blood test that can measure dopamine, doctors rarely order this test because dopamine levels in blood don’t tell much about how dopamine is functioning in the brain. Dopamine disorders are usually diagnosed by their symptoms. [1,2]
There are many possible symptoms depending on the disorder. You may have changes in thinking, mood, or movement. Each dopamine-related disorder has its own treatment. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are used for mental health disorders. Since dopamine as a medication does not get into the brain, Parkinson’s disease is treated with a medication (levodopa) that can cross into the brain and be converted into dopamine. [4,5]
Although there are many supplements or diets that claim to increase dopamine levels, there is no strong evidence that any of these are effective.  Symptoms of dopamine deficiency require a careful diagnosis, since they could indicate a number of serious conditions. If you have signs or symptoms that could be due to dopamine deficiency, talk to your doctor. The good news is that effective treatments are available for many of these disorders. [1,2]
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