Sweating and Skin Problems
People living with Parkinson’s disease sometimes notice changes in the condition of their skin. These problems may be minor, but for some, they can affect quality of life.
It’s common for people living with Parkinson’s disease to have skin that is oily, red, irritated and/or flaky. The amount of sweat produced may also change. Although these problems are rarely dangerous, they can cause embarrassment and discomfort.
The most common problems include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Excessive sweating
- Inadequate sweating
There are glands in our skin that produce an oily substance called sebum, which helps protect the skin. People who have Parkinson’s disease generally produce more sebum, making the skin more oily, particularly around the face and scalp.
This condition is known as seborrhea. Having oily skin is not dangerous, but it can be unpleasant. To mitigate the phenomenon, opt for mild soap that does not contain oil, and avoid cosmetic products that contain alcohol or components that may irritate the skin.
Some areas of the skin contain more sebaceous glands than others. These glands can become irritated, red and itchy. The skin may then peel or flake, causing scabs to appear. The scalp, face, ears and chest are the most commonly affected areas.
This condition is called seborrheic dermatitis. It is quite common in the general population, but even more common in people with Parkinson’s disease.
There is no cure for seborrheic dermatitis, but there are treatments that can help control it. Talk you your doctor, who will be able to suggest the appropriate creams and soaps. Avoid any products that might irritate the skin.
Parkinson’s disease causes neurons to degenerate in the part of the brain that controls sweating. This results in excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), which is particularly pronounced when the effects of levodopa diminish (off periods).
Ways to reduce your sweating:
- Cut down on foods and beverages that cause sweating (e.g. spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, etc.).
- Use antiperspirant rather than deodorant, which only reduces the smell.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing made of synthetic material, which breathes better.
Some people living with Parkinson’s disease lose the ability to sweat adequately. This is a condition known as hypohidrosis, and it is usually a side-effect of medication like anticholinergics. Hypohidrosis may affect your whole body or specific areas.
Sweating is a normal process that is essential for temperature regulation. Without the ability to sweat adequately, you could be at risk for heat stroke. When it’s hot out, stay in air-conditioned locations and drink lots of water.
People living with Parkinson’s disease have a higher risk of developing melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
However, melanoma is relatively rare, even among those with Parkinson’s disease. It is also treatable if diagnosed early. That’s why it’s important to focus on prevention, screening and early detection.
Risk factors for melanoma:
- Being male
- A family history of melanoma
- Fair skin, light eyes and freckles
- UV exposure from the sun or tanning salons
Ways to reduce your risk of melanoma:
- Minimize your exposure to sunlight, particularly around midday
- Wear UV protective clothing
- Put on at least 30 SPF sunscreen when you go outside
- See a dermatologist every year
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