Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive movement disorder that affects the central nervous system and can cause symptoms that affect everything from behavior to speech. While most people associate PD with its motor symptoms, such as tremor and stiffness, there are many lesser-known non-motor symptoms that tend to fly under the radar. Experts say that, in particular, there’s one seemingly unrelated skin symptom that may point to Parkinson’s—and patients are often unaware of its connection to PD. Read on to find out which symptom on your skin means it’s time to get screened for Parkinson’s, according to experts.
RELATED: If You Can’t Smell These 3 Foods, Get Checked for Parkinson’s, Experts Say.
Experts say that excessive sweating—also known as hyperhidrosis—can have many underlying causes unrelated to Parkinson’s disease. However, you should be screened for PD if you notice this symptom along with any other signs of the illness. “Excessive sweating is a relatively common sign of Parkinson’s, particularly if the disease is untreated,” explains the American Parkinson Disease Foundation (APDA), noting that this symptom typically affects the upper body.
Medical experts say this happens because those with Parkinson’s undergo major changes to the autonomic nervous system, which controls sweating. This can have serious consequences for PD patients, who may easily become overheated without proper sweat regulation. “Because some people with Parkinson’s may have a reduced sense of smell, they may not be aware of body odors caused by excessive sweating,” say experts from the charity Parkinson’s UK.
RELATED: 96 Percent of People With Parkinson’s Have This in Common, Study Says.
For some Parkinson’s patients, excessive sweating comes and goes in a cycle that’s linked to their treatment plan. According to Parkinson’s UK, excessive sweating “most often happens if your Parkinson’s drugs ‘wear off.'” However, it can also occur during other times of the “on-off” cycle of a sustained levodopa treatment plan, “especially if you have dyskinesia (uncontrollable muscle movements or spasms).”
Scientists have investigated ways to minimize symptom fluctuations associated with Parkinson’s medication. “Redistribution of levodopa dosage, which may mean smaller, more frequent doses, or larger less frequent increments, may be helpful in controlling oscillations in some patients,” says a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
You may also notice an increase of other symptoms in conjunction with excessive sweating, thanks to that same “on-off cycle” phenomenon. “In some people, motor symptoms such as tremor may be the first sign, whilst for others it might be stiffness and difficulty initiating movement. But wearing off symptoms may not be related to movement at all and may be experienced in the form of increased anxiety, fatigue, a change in mood, difficulty thinking, restlessness, and sweating,” explains the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA).
Though less common than excessive sweating, some PD patients report not sweating enough. This condition, known as hypohidrosis, is frequently linked to the use of anticholinergics, a class of Parkinson’s drug, experts from Parkinson’s UK explain.
“Lack of sweating may affect parts, or all of the body,” Parkinson’s UK experts explain, noting that it’s important to seek medical treatment if you find that you’re not sweating much or at all when it’s hot outside or you feel yourself becoming uncomfortably warm. The organization notes that, like excessive sweating, a lack of sweat may put you at increased risk of overheating.
For the latest health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
While excessively sweaty skin can be a challenging PD symptom on top of so many others, you may be able to keep it under control. According to Parkinson’s UK, you can begin by identifying triggers that make you sweat more. This may include spicy foods, alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, crowded environments, or stressful situations.
Assessing and adjusting your wardrobe can also have a significant impact on your comfort. Avoid clothes that are synthetic or tight-fitting, instead opting for loose clothing in natural fibers, which may help reduce sweat and hide sweat marks. Additionally, sweat shields may help protect your clothes.
If these interventions (and antiperspirant) don’t make a significant impact on the problem, speak with your doctor about medication or other possible treatments, such as Botox injections. And, if you notice sweating but do not know the underlying cause, be sure to ask for a medical assessment.
RELATED: This Was the First Sign of Parkinson’s Alan Alda Noticed.