Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological condition that causes tremors, stiffness, and a variety of other symptoms. It is also associated with certain skin conditions, some of which resemble hives.
People with Parkinson’s disease can certainly get hives, as they are quite common. But the two conditions are not actually connected.
Parkinson’s disease is associated with other conditions that cause similar symptoms, including seborrheic dermatitis and excessive sweating. Seborrheic dermatitis causes red, scaly patches of skin on the face, scalp, and other areas of the body. Excessive sweating can lead to heat rash, which causes itchy red bumps, blisters, and tender patches of skin.
Keep reading to learn more about how Parkinson’s disease may affect your skin.
Hives (urticaria) are raised welts that can be extremely itchy. They can appear red or pink in lighter skin tones, but this reddening may not be visible in darker skin tones.
Hives can be very small and separate, or they can form together to cover large areas of the body. They often occur in batches or clusters and may frequently change in appearance.
Hives are typically triggered by an allergic reaction. But they can also be caused by other irritants. Triggers can include:
- foods, such as eggs, nuts, or shellfish
- insect stings or bites
- tight clothes
For the most part, doctors don’t associate Parkinson’s disease with hives. But there are some Parkinson’s disease medications that can cause a rash in some people.
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This is considered to be a very rare side effect. But if you experience allergic reactions after taking one of your medications, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about switching to another formulation.
Those with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to experience the skin condition known as seborrheic dermatitis.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common form of eczema that typically affects your scalp. It can also appear in areas of your body that produce more oil, such as your face, chest, and back. Symptoms can include:
- dandruff in the hair, beard, mustache, or eyebrows
- red skin
- scaly patches of skin
- skin that may appear greasy or shiny
- pimples that may cause scarring
Seborrheic dermatitis happens when the sebaceous glands in your skin produce too much oil. This can cause your skin to look greasy, red, and irritated. It often affects skin folds, such as the insides of the ears, the edges of the nose, and the eyelids.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms result from dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of your nervous system that automatically controls functions like breathing and digestion.
People with Parkinson’s disease may be at increased risk of seborrheic dermatitis because of a dysregulation in oil production. As many as 52 percent to 59 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease may experience seborrheic dermatitis at some point.
Excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, is the most common sweating issue seen in people with Parkinson’s disease. It involves intense episodes of sweating that can drench your clothes and bedding.
These episodes can significantly affect daily life and make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Excessive sweating can also lead to heat rash, which can cause symptoms that resemble hives. Heat rash happens when sweat gets trapped beneath the skin.
Symptoms of heat rash
- red bumps
- fluid-filled blisters
- tender red patches
- a prickling sensation
Sweating dysfunctions associated with Parkinson’s disease include sweating too much, sweating too little, or experiencing a combination of both. This happens because Parkinson’s disease affects your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating body temperature.
Signs and symptoms of sweating dysfunctions include:
- sweating that seems especially heavy on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet
- profuse sweating that drenches your clothes or bedding
- sweating that worsens at night or while you’re asleep
- increased sweating on your face and decreased sweating on your body
- decreased sweating on hot days or during activity
These symptoms can be understandably concerning. Talk with your doctor about whether they could be related to your medication. Making changes to your prescription may help ease symptoms. There are also other treatments for hyperhidrosis.
Sweating and Parkinson’s medications
Excessive sweating may happen at any time, or it may be connected to your Parkinson’s disease medications.
If you take carbidopa and levodopa (Sinemet), you may notice you experience periods of excessive sweating when your medication is wearing off or not working as effectively as it should.
Anticholinergics, a different type of Parkinson’s medication, can sometimes contribute to a lack of sweating.
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Researchers in the study above estimated that the risk of developing melanoma is two times higher in those with Parkinson’s disease when compared to those who don’t have a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Only about 1 percent of skin cancers are melanomas. But even though it is uncommon, even in people with Parkinson’s disease, it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist for an annual skin check.
Other skin conditions that have been associated with Parkinson’s disease include:
- Bullous pemphigoid. This autoimmune disorder can cause itching and cause bullae (fluid-filled sacs) to form on the skin.
- Rosacea. This condition causes skin inflammation that results in symptoms including redness, swelling, pain, flushing, and pustules on the skin.
If you have concerns about your skin, consider discussing them with your doctor or dermatologist.
Seborrheic dermatitis is typically treated with topical medications applied to the skin and scalp. Your doctor may recommend starting with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medicated products. If those methods don’t help, your doctor may prescribe something stronger.
How to treat your skin at home
- Prevent the buildup of excess oil by cleansing your skin with a mild soap on a daily basis.
- Avoid using products on your skin that contain alcohol, as this can irritate and dry your skin, leading to oil overproduction.
- Use an OTC dandruff shampoo if seborrheic dermatitis affects your scalp or beard. These shampoos contain active agents like coal tar and salicylic acid.
- Cleanse affected eyelids with baby shampoo and cotton pads.
- Try an OTC medicated cream, like a corticosteroid (Cortizone 10) or antifungal.
If your skin does not improve with at-home treatment, talk with your doctor about possible prescription options. Prescription treatments for seborrheic dermatitis target specific areas, such as your scalp, face, and body.
- Scalp. Prescription shampoos may contain prescription-strength antifungals like ketoconazole or prescription-strength corticosteroids.
- Eyes. If your eyelids are severely affected, a doctor may prescribe an ointment that contains tacrolimus. A doctor may also prescribe a corticosteroid cream for the face.
- Face and body. Your doctor may prescribe stronger steroid or antifungal creams to clear up affected areas.
If you are experiencing excessive sweating, you can start by talking with your doctor about your Parkinson’s disease medications. It’s possible that your carbidopa and levodopa dose may need adjusting.
If you aren’t sweating as much as you used to or the pattern of your sweating has changed, talk with your doctor about any anticholinergics you may be taking.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition that affects many people, not only those with Parkinson’s disease. There are many treatment options available. Talk with your doctor about:
- prescription-strength antiperspirants
- botulinum toxin (BOTOX) injections
- medicines to reduce skin sweating
- prescription cloth wipes
- iontophoresis and other medical devices
Living with excessive sweating
Excessive sweating can be uncomfortable and interfere with your daily life. Here are some tips on living with excessive sweating:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Avoid foods that may trigger sweating, such as alcohol, caffeine, or spicy foods.
- Ensure that you are applying antiperspirant. Deodorant only helps to reduce sweat-related odors.
- Wear layers so you can easily remove clothing if you start getting too hot.
- Wear natural, breathable fabrics like cotton.
- Carry an extra pair of socks and change them twice a day.
Parkinson’s disease can increase your risk of melanoma and skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and excessive sweating, but it is not associated with hives.
Seborrheic dermatitis causes itchy, red, scaly skin, which can be mistaken for hives. Excessive sweating can cause heat rash, which can present as itchy red bumps or tender red patches.
These conditions can sometimes be managed at home with over-the-counter treatments, but it’s always best to visit your doctor to discuss any new symptoms.