Parkinson's Disease And Your Skin
Parkinson's disease isn't just a movement disorder. The disease can cause numerous other symptoms, including skin problems related to the loss of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how muscles and nerves affect the body's movement.
But too little or too much dopamine, whether through natural dopamine production or given through medication, can have adverse effects on the skin. Therefore, if you have Parkinson's disease, it's important to be aware of the common skin problems that can occur and how a dermatologist can treat them.
Parkinson's disease puts you at higher risk for developing seborrheic dermatitis – a red, itchy rash on your skin that resembles psoriais or eczema. The condition also is characterized by small patches of flaky scales that often occur on the scalp or forehead, inside the ears, and around the nose.
Treatment includes medicated shampoos, topical steroid lotions, or antifungal medication for severe cases. Although treatment can help control the symptoms, the condition is chronic; therefore flare-ups occur.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessive sweating. Symptoms may include frequent sweating, drenching sweats, or sweaty palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Parkinson's disease often is a cause of secondary hyperhidrosis. Your doctor may recommend the use of of prescription-strength antiperspirants, botulinum toxin injections to treat excessive underarm sweating, oral medications such as anticholinergics, or beta blockers normally prescribed to treat high blood pressure.
Skin Irritation Caused by Drooling
Parkinson's disease can affect muscles that you use to talk, swallow, and chew. As a result, you can have drooling problems. Excessive saliva can cause the skin around your lips and mouth to become irritated. Consequently, you may develop sores, particularly at the corners of your mouth where saliva can build up and irritate the skin.
While you can use lip balms and ointments to treat inflamed skin, your doctor may prescribe anticholinergic drugs or recommend botulinum toxin injections to help control the drooling. Anticholinergics help reduce muscle spasms by blocking involuntary movements of the muscles. Doctors use botulinum toxin injections to temporarily paralyze facial muscles.
If you have Parkinson's disease, you are at increased risk for developing malignant melanoma – a rare skin cancer. In combined studies where dermatologists evaluated individuals with both Parkinson's and skin lesions indicative of potential malignant melanoma, they found that the rate for this particular skin cancer to be higher in patients with Parkinson's disease than in the general population. These findings imply the need for regular skin cancer screening among individuals with Parkinson's.
While studies suggest a link between the two diseases, the cause remains unknown. However, researchers suspect that levodopa – a medication that neurologists commonly prescribe to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease – may play a role.
If you become more sedentary as your Parkinson's disease progresses and causes more rigidity that restricts your mobility and ability to turn over and move in bed, pressure sores can become an issue. Night sweats and urinary incontinence – symptoms that can occur with Parkinson's – increase the risk of skin breakdown and ulcers developing. Remaining as mobile as possible and taking your medications as prescribed can help prevent pressure ulcers.