One in 37 people alive today in the UK will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime. The disease, which is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain, doesn’t directly kill people but can make you more vulnerable to life-threatening infections. While there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, treatments are available to reduce symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible. So, what are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease? Express.co.uk reveals the top symptoms and the sweaty warning sign that you might be missing, according to charities the Michael J Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s UK.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms vary from person to person and sometimes the disease is hard for even medical professionals to spot.
That’s why it’s so important to visit a movement disorder specialist if you think you have Parkinson’s disease.
The symptoms can be extremely subtle, and there’s one in particular that you might be overlooking.
Did you know that Parkinson’s can cause problems with sweating? Yep, excessive perspiration – even when you’re not hot or anxious – could be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s UK explained: “People with Parkinson’s sometimes have problems with their skin, and how much or how little they sweat.
“Some people may only have minor issues while others may have more severe problems that can affect daily life.”
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Why does Parkinson’s cause excessive sweating?
There are a few reasons why you might be extra sweaty with Parkinson’s disease.
Firstly, Parkinson’s may cause problems with the part of the nervous system that controls sweating.
Parkinson’s UK pointed out that this can lead to excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), which tends to happen if your Parkinson’s drugs wear off.
The site added: “Sometimes, people with Parkinson’s can also experience sweating at night.
“Sweating excessively can also happen in the ‘on’ state (when your Parkinson’s drugs are working at their best) especially if you have dyskinesia (uncontrollable muscle movements or spasms).
“Because some people with Parkinson’s may have a reduced sense of smell, they may not be aware of body odours caused by excessive sweating.”
People with Parkinson’s may also produce more sebum (an oily substance that protects and keeps skin supple) than normal.
This can cause your skin to become greasy and shiny, particularly on your face and scalp.
Having excess sebum can lead to seborrhoeic dermatitis, so this condition is very common among people with Parkinson’s.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis mainly impacts your scalp, face, ears, chest, the bends and folds of skin, leaving red, scaly patches, weeping rashes, inflammation, redness, and sensitivity.
On the other end of the scale, some Parkinson’s patients may not sweat enough in some parts or all of the body.
This is caused by a condition called hypohidrosis, and it tends to be a side effect of a type of Parkinson’s medication called an anticholinergic.
Not sweating enough can cause you to overheat and puts your life at risk, so it’s important to speak to a GP if you’re worried.
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Parkinson’s disease symptoms
The symptoms of Parkinson’s are vast, but you can generally split them into four categories: motor symptoms, autonomic dysfunction, mood and thinking changes, and other physical changes.
Express.co.uk breaks down the many symptoms included in these groups, according to the Michael J Fox Foundation site.
Motor symptoms refer to the signs of Parkinson’s that relate to movement, and are noticeable from the outside.
These are the most common symptoms spotted by doctors and what typically leads to a quick diagnosis.
Not everyone with Parkinson’s disease will experience all motor symptoms, but The Michael J Fox Foundation said the three ‘cardinal’ motor symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- Stiffness (rigidity): muscle stiffness detected by a doctor on examination
- Slowness or bradykinesia: decrease in spontaneous and voluntary movement; may include slower walking, less arm swinging while walking, or decreased blinking or facial expression. Slowness is ALWAYS present in Parkinson’s disease.
- Resting tremor: a rhythmic, involuntary shaking that occurs in a finger, hand or limb when it’s relaxed and disappears during voluntary movement. Not everyone with Parkinson’s will develop tremors, but it is the most common symptom at diagnosis.
Autonomic Dysfunction is a group of non-motor and sometimes invisible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
They happen when the automatic or involuntary functions that our bodies usually perform are disturbed by Parkinson’s, including issues with sweating.
Other examples are:
- Constipation: decreased or difficult-to-pass bowel movements
- Low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension): decrease in blood pressure when changing positions, such as standing from sitting, which can cause lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
- Sexual problems: erectile dysfunction in men; decreased libido or pain in women
- Urine problems: frequent urination, involuntary loss of urine (incontinence) or difficulty emptying the bladder (weak stream)
Mood and thinking changes
Parkinson’s disease can impact the way you feel and think, for example, you might experience:
- Apathy: lack of motivation and interest in activities
- Memory or thinking (cognitive) problems: vary widely; range from multitasking and concentration difficulties that don’t interfere with daily activities (mild cognitive impairment) to significant problems that impact a job and daily and social activities (dementia)
- Mood disturbances: depression (sadness, loss of energy, decreased interest in activities) and anxiety (uncontrollable worry)
- Psychosis: seeing things that aren’t there (visual hallucinations) and having false, often paranoid, beliefs (delusions), such as that a spouse is being unfaithful or money is being stolen
Other physical changes
Parkinson’s can lead to a few physical changes too, such as:
- Drooling: build-up of saliva because of decreased swallowing
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue: feeling drowsy, sluggish or exhausted; may be symptoms on their own or result from Parkinson’s medications
- Pain: discomfort in one body part or the entire body
- Skin changes: oily or dry skin; increased risk of melanoma
- Sleep problems: insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), restless legs syndrome (an uncomfortable sensation in the legs that goes away with moving them) or REM sleep behaviour disorder (acting out dreams)
- Smell loss: decreased ability to detect odours
- Speech problems: speaking in a soft and monotone voice and sometimes slurring words or mumbling
- Swallowing problems: choking, coughing and clearing the throat when eating and drinking
- Vision changes: dry eyes, double vision and trouble reading
- Weight changes: mild to moderate weight loss may occur in some people
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