Did you know that excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis or Hh) can be an early sign of Parkinson’s as well as a lingering Parkinson’s problem that can make life with the disease even harder? We’ve researched the connections between excessive sweating and the neurodegenerative disease so you have the facts, can recognize warning signs, and better help yourself and your loved ones.
According to a recent study in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 24% of people with Parkinson’s disease experience excessive sweating. Parkinson’s-associated sweating also often becomes more serious as the disease progresses. Meanwhile, the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), notes that unusual sweating of the upper body or head can be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s.
But even though excessive sweating related to Parkinson’s disease affects almost one in four people with the disease, it’s not studied very much. This is a problem on multiple levels because, as the new research shows, excessive sweating is associated with greater depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunction in people with Parkinson’s. To the International Hyperhidrosis Society community, this not surprising because we already know that depression and anxiety risks are increased with hyperhidrosis. For example, research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that the prevalence of anxiety and depression is significantly higher in those with Hh than those without Hh (21.3% vs 7.5% and 27.2% vs 9.7%, respectively).
We want to help everyone learn more about excessive sweating in Parkinson’s and reiterate that excessive sweating can occur as “secondary Hh” due to another medical condition (like Parkinson’s) or as a side effect of medications (like those used to treat Parkinson’s). Either way, the problem should be given care and attention. Indeed, with numerous reasons why excessive sweating and Parkinson’s can go hand-in-hand, it’s clear that the Parkinson’s community and the hyperhidrosis community have a lot we can work on together.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a long-term disorder affecting approximately 10 million people worldwide, or approximately 1% of people older than 60 years. To give context: hyperhidrosis affects 4.8% of people of all ages, and 365+ million people worldwide.
Excessive sweating is one of several skin changes associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and can, in fact, be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s. With Parkinson’s, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die, causing difficulties with body functions that are usually automatic - things like muscle control, temperature regulation, digestion, and blood pressure. Other symptoms include trembling, stiffness, slow or unsteady movements, and balance problems.
Parkinson’s excessive sweating tends to occur on the face, head, and trunk but interestingly, hands and feet may sweat less than normal. Sleep disturbances related to poor temperature control and sweating are also common with Parkinson’s.
While there is not yet a cure for Parkinson’s, medications can help to manage its impacts. These are usually targeted at helping with walking, movement, and involuntary tremors. There isn’t, however, one standard treatment for Parkinson’s, instead treatment can be different for each person, depending on their symptoms.
Treatment for Parkinson’s Sweating
To help control hyperhidrosis in Parkinson’s, the usual hyperhidrosis treatments can be tried. These include antiperspirants, anticholinergic oral medications (which are sometimes used to help Parkinson’s tremors anyway), and injections like Botox (which can be used to treat Parkinson’s tremors, drooling and other symptoms, as well as unwanted sweating).
What Are Early Signs of Parkinson’s?
Other signs of Parkinson’s include:
- Tremors or slight shaking in fingers, thumbs, hands, or chin, particularly when at rest.
- Handwriting that is smaller or more crowded. This is called micrographia.
- Loss of smell, especially the inability to smell bananas, pickles, or licorice.
- Changes in sleep due to sweating or thrashing movements at night. (Sleep disturbances can also occur after starting certain medications for Parkinson’s, which can cause night sweats.)
- Stiffness or pain that doesn’t go away even after a “warm-up” period, especially in the shoulders or hips.
- Constipation or needing to strain to have a bowel movement.
- Changes in the voice, especially if talking has become very soft, hard to hear, or hoarse.
- Stiffness in the face resulting in a lack of facial expressions, or a more serious look on the face.
- Dizziness or fainting, especially when standing up from a sitting position.
- Stooping over, or not being able to stand up as straight as normal.
To learn more about Parkinson’s, visit the Parkinson’s Foundation at www.Parkinson.org or call their Helpline. And please, spread the word about Parkinson’s and hyperhidrosis. The skin problems associated with Parkinson’s are often overlooked in both diagnosis and treatment but should be addressed to help people with Parkinson’s maintain quality of life and social-emotional wellness.
The International Hyperhidrosis Society is proud to support Parkinson’s awareness and advocacy recognizing that there are many ways in which our goals overlap and that improved health and healthcare for everyone helps make the world a better place!