Are Your Skin Problems Related to Parkinson’s?

Originally published by Parkinsonsdisease.net on December 21, 2020

By Sharon Krischer

a hand draws a question mark on their skin by some bumps
Illustration by Parkinsonsdisease.net

Over the years, I have often referred to myself as a Dermatology Poster Child. My skin has been sensitive since day 1 and has gotten progressively worse as I get older. Is this one more thing I can blame on Parkinson’s?

I have had the trifecta of skin cancers (a label a dermatologist friend gave me). I have had several basal cell skin cancers, a squamous cell, and not one, but two melanomas, the most recent one about 6 months ago.

Eczema has plagued me for years, mostly on my hands. And if that is not enough, rosacea has joined the party and makes me look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Wearing a face mask only makes it worse than it would have been.

Types of skin problems

I knew that there was an increased risk of malignant melanoma with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and I was vaguely aware that there were other skin problems related to it. So I did a search for Parkinson’s and skin diseases. There were a lot more than I was aware of. Here a few skin diseases related to Parkinson’s:1

  • Sebaceous dermatitis (oily, flaky and inflamed skin)
  • Extremely dry skin
  • Excessive sweating (especially the palms of your hands and soles of your feet)
  • Too little perspiration
  • Skin cancer, especially Melanoma (2-5 times higher incidence in People with PD)

Some of these may be caused by Parkinson’s medications.1 You should talk to your doctor about this. In any case, you should be screened by a dermatologist annually for skin cancers. Always, always use sunscreen, especially if you have light hair and skin, to decrease your risk of skin cancers.

Skin problems as a precursor to Parkinson’s

According to one research study, evidence shows an increased prevalence of certain dermatological disorders in Parkinson’s disease.2 In fact, some of these are considered pre-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s:2

  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Light hair color or red hair – uh oh, that would be me.
  • Bullous pemphigoid – this affects mostly people over 80.
  • Rosacea – a 2-fold increase in risk of PD, oops, me again
  • Higher values of α-synuclein in the skin than normal
  • Parkin gene shows a potential link between melanoma and Parkinson’s

Can your skin be a predictor for Parkinson’s?

The jury is still out on this one. One research study proposes that certain skin conditions are pre-motor symptoms of PD.2 I have not found any other studies that support this theory, but wouldn’t it be great if there were a simple skin test for Parkinson’s?

References:

  1. Skin Changes. Parkinson’s Foundation. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Symptoms/Non-Movement-Symptoms/Skin-Changes. Accessed December 21, 2020.
  2. Ravn AH, Thyssen JP, Egeberg A. Skin disorders in Parkinson’s disease: potential biomarkers and risk factors. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:87-92. Published 2017 Mar 9. doi:10.2147/CCID.S130319