Parkinson’s Disease and Excessive Sweating: What’s the Connection?

It is one of several different skin changes in Parkinson's disease

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People with Parkinson's disease (PD) can experience excessive sweating or may sweat too little. In fact, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) is one of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease that you should not ignore.

For some people who have Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, sweating and thermoregulation (maintaining body temperature) issues are minor, but for others they affect daily life in significant ways. Additionally, many different skin conditions are more common in Parkinson’s disease, and they can affect your quality of life.

This article will describe how your skin can be affected by Parkinson’s disease and what you can do to manage your skin issues.

Excessive sweating may occur in Parkinson's disease

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Parkinson’s Disease, Skin Changes, and Sweating

There are several different skin problems that are often part of Parkinson’s disease. Thermoregulation and increased or diminished sweating are effects that often impact each other.

How Parkinson's Disease Affects Thermoregulation

Parkinson's disease has very noticeable symptoms caused by the degeneration of a specific region in the brain. The condition also affects the autonomic nervous system, which controls your involuntary bodily functions, like digestion, blood pressure, temperature control, and perspiration.

When you have PD, your body's natural mechanism that controls your temperature regulation can be impaired, making you feel too hot or too cold at times.

For example, there is a natural regulation of body temperature during different stages of sleep—this natural regulation is impaired in many people with Parkinson's disease. This can add to the sleep problems associated with Parkinson's disease.

Additionally, sweating is one of the ways that your body regulates temperature. Dysregulated sweating can further worsen thermoregulation problems in PD.

Parkinson’s Medications and Sweating

In some cases, excessive sweating—or  insufficient sweating—is part of the disease process due to autonomic nervous system involvement. In Parkinson’s disease, excessive sweating affects the face, head, and trunk, while the palms may sweat less than usual.

Additionally, too much sweating or too little sweating can be side effects of some Parkinson’s medications, although sweating too little is less common.

What to Expect From Parkinson’s Disease and Skin

People with Parkinson’s disease can experience a variety of skin symptoms. Not everyone who has Parkinson’s disease develops all of the skin effects or has them to the same degree.

It is important that you talk to your doctor if you develop these symptoms and that you get treatment to make you feel more comfortable. In general, having more severe skin symptoms is associated with progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dry, flaky, inflamed skin is often one of the most noticeable skin effects associated with Parkinson’s disease, and it's often diagnosed as seborrheic dermatitis. The skin can feel and appear dry and may flake and peel. This does not typically cause pain or discomfort, and the reasons why it occurs in Parkinson’s disease are not known.

Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin condition characterized by redness, inflammation, and the appearance of tiny blood vessel on the face. Sometimes itching can occur as well.  It is more common in Parkinson’s disease than in the general population, and this is believed to be associated with the autonomic nervous system involvement.

Oily Skin

Sometimes Parkinson’s disease can cause excess sebum production from the oil-producing glands in the skin, causing oiliness. This is associated with inflammation.

Excessive Sweating

Parkinson’s disease can cause excessive sweating due to the involvement of the autonomic nervous system. Additionally, some medications used to treat the condition can increase sweating as well. This can fluctuate as the medication reaches maximal effect and wears off.

Too Little Sweating

Diminished sweating is not as common in Parkinson’s disease as excessive sweating, but it can occur as a side effect of the anticholinergic medications that are sometimes used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Skin Cancer

Parkinson’s disease is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma. According to The Parkinson’s Foundation, the risk of melanoma is 2 to 7 times higher than that of the general population.

Coping With Parkinson’s Disease, Skin Changes, and Temperature Regulation

The biggest adjustments in living with Parkinson’s disease involve your motor symptoms and medication side effects. But nonmotor symptoms, including the effects on your skin, can have an impact on your life as well. Learn how to manage the skin-related aspects of Parkinson’s disease. 

Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis

For managing dry skin, you can use a gentle moisturizer and lightly wipe off the flakes. Make sure you don’t pull at any flakes or rub them.

Treating Rosacea

Rosacea can be treated with lifestyle adjustments, such as keeping your skin moisturized and avoiding foods that aggravate the symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe medication if your condition is severe.

Treating Oily Skin

When your skin is oily, you need to cleanse it with water and a mild soap, possibly twice per day. Avoid washing too much, and steer clear of astringents and strong soaps because they can irritate your skin. 

Makeup

If you wear makeup, you can continue to do so with Parkinson’s disease. It may help to experiment with different makeup consistencies (powder, cream, stick) to see which is best for your skin.

Treating Hyperhidrosis and PD

Usually, lifestyle modification is the recommended method for managing excessive sweating in Parkinson’s disease. Strategies include avoiding tight clothes, dressing in natural materials, wearing antiperspirant, and avoiding foods that cause you to sweat (this often includes spicy food).

If you want to conceal your sweating, consider wearing clothes that don’t show sweat marks and using deodorant, cologne, or perfume if it makes you feel more confident.

If you notice that you have been sweating a lot, make sure you drink water to avoid getting dehydrated. Dehydration can make you feel dizzy.

Managing Hypohidrosis and PD

You might not notice decreased sweating specifically, but this problem can cause you to feel too hot. Talk to your doctor if you often feel warm or hot. You might need a medication adjustment, or you may be advised to wear lighter clothes and to frequently keep cool drinks close at hand. 

Lifestyle Changes

Other strategies proven to help people with Parkinson’s disease cope with the illness include:

  • Social engagement
  • Hobbies
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Quality sleep
  • Stress management

When you are living with Parkinson’s disease, don’t try to tackle all these problems on your own. Your medical team can monitor your symptoms, help provide you with recommendations that are proven to help, specific therapies, and prescriptions as needed.

Summary

Parkinson's disease can affect your skin and body temperature regulation. You may feel too hot or too cold at times. Sweat is a way the body adjusts its temperature, and you may sweat more than usual. This can also be a side effect of medication for Parkinson's disease.

Other skin changes in PD include seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, oily skin, too little sweating, and a greater risk of melanoma. Talk to your doctor about how to cope with these conditions.

A Word From Verywell

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you might be surprised to learn that this condition causes other symptoms besides the symptoms that affect your movements. While the skin and body temperature effects of Parkinson’s disease are not immediately dangerous, they can be distressing and uncomfortable for you.

Talk to your doctor about any skin or temperature symptoms that you are having—these can usually be treated with lifestyle modifications or medications to make you more comfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is sweating a symptom of Parkinson’s disease?

    Excessive sweating is one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, or it can occur as a side effect of medications used to treat the condition.

    This may cause you to experience discomfort, it can cause visible sweat marks, and it can produce an odor. In severe cases, it can contribute to dehydration and problems with regulating body temperature.

  • Why do Parkinson’s patients sweat?

    Excessive sweating can occur because the disease interferes with the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions. It can also occur as a side effect of medication.

  • What are the signs that Parkinson’s is getting worse?

    Generally, the most obvious sign is worsening difficulty with walking and balance or a more severe tremor. These issues can affect your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, and medication can help.

  • Does Parkinson’s affect body temperature?

    Sometimes this condition can interfere with your body’s temperature regulation—and you can feel too hot or too cold at times, including during sleep. Your temperature regulation can be associated with increased or decreased sweating.

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7 Sources
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