SKIN AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Not only does Parkinson’s affect the neurological system, but changes in the skin are common symptoms of PD. Many individuals living with PD develop oily or flaky skin, while others might experience dry skin or excessive sweating. While overall cancer risk is reduced in PD, skin cancer risk – especially melanoma – increases.

Keep in mind, it is important to continue your daily outdoor activities (walking, gardening, golfing, etc.) to get your vitamin D and fresh air. Below are some common symptoms and tips to handle skin problems safely.

 

Seborrheic Dermatitis – Irritated skin

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition in the general population, but even more commonly found in people living with PD. This condition causes scaly patches, red skin, and stubborn dandruff, but can also affect oily areas of the body, such as the face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids and chest. In PD, it is thought to be caused by over-secretion of oils from the sebaceous glands in the skin.

Seborrheic dermatitis can be controlled with:

  • lifestyle changes
  • topical creams
  • washing the skin regularly
  • avoiding harsh soaps and products that contain alcohol
  • Over-the-counter medicated shampoos containing salicylic acid, zinc, selenium, tar or ketoconazole can help.

A dermatologist can recommend treatment for severe symptoms, such as prescription-strength shampoos, steroids or other immune suppressants.

 

Sweating Changes

Another common skin-related non-motor symptom of PD are sweating abnormalities, more specifically the inability for your body to regulate its temperature correctly.  In its most pronounced form, people with PD describe episodes of sudden, profuse sweating that necessitate a change in clothing.  But it could also mean reduced sweating for some people.

In people with PD, there can be pathologic changes in the parts of your brain that regulate temperature, as well as in the nerves that regulate the sweat glands. People with PD may experience increased or decreased sweating, or a combination of both. One common pattern is reduced sweating in the body with increased sweating in the face. Another temperature regulation symptom that some people with PD experience is the sensation of cold hands or feet.

These at-home tips can help with sweating:

  • Wear breathable cotton clothes and socks, and non-synthetic shoes
  • Take lukewarm or cold showers
  • Increase fluid intake
  • Drink cold liquids
  • Use antiperspirant

 

Skin Cancer

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that has been consistently linked to PD. People who have had melanoma are at an increased risk for PD and people who have PD are at an increased risk of melanoma.

Melanomas are more likely to spread from the skin to internal organs than any other skin cancers. Recent studies have suggested the likelihood of developing malignant melanoma is two to seven times higher in people with PD than the general population. While melanomas are relatively rare (even in people with PD), early diagnosis and treatment is important.

You should know what other melanoma risk factors you have. These include:

  • Increased age
  • Male
  • Personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Fair skin, light eyes, freckles
  • Exposure to UV rays, usually from sun exposure

These tips below are applicable to all adults with and without PD:

  • Minimize sun exposure by wearing protective clothing and avoid being out in the sun at peak times, such as midday.
  • Use a waterproof sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and that is at least SPF 30.
  • Visit a dermatologist at least once a year for a skin check.
  • Visit the National Institutes of Health website for more information on the types of skin changes that should raise concern.

 

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Parkinson’s Disease (PD) FAQs

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) FAQs

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder or disorder of the brain.

How is Parkinson’s Disease diagnosed?

No specific test exists to diagnose PD. Your doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist) will diagnose PD based on your medical history, a review of your signs and symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination.

What causes Parkinson’s Disease?

The exact cause of PD is not known, although scientists believe it results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

The most common symptoms of PD include tremor at rest, rigidity (stiffness), bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and postural instability (lack of balance).

How many people are currently living with Parkinson’s Disease?

Worldwide, there are more than 10 million people living with PD.

How many people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease each year?

Every year in the US, 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD.

Can Parkinson’s Disease be cured?

Not yet. However, many PD symptoms can be treated, and researchers are making advances in understanding the disease, its causes and how to best treat it.

What are the stages of Parkinson’s Disease?

The stages of PD correspond to the severity of movement symptoms and to how much the disease affects a person’s daily activities. At all stages of PD, effective therapies are available to ease symptoms and make it possible for people with PD to live well.

  • Mild PD: movement symptoms, often tremor, occur on one side and may be inconvenient, but do not affect daily activities. Regular exercise improves and maintains mobility and balance, it also reduces depression and constipation.
  • Moderate PD: movement symptoms occur on both sides of the body. The body moves more slowly and trouble with balance and coordination may develop. Regular exercise combined with physical or occupational therapy can help with mobility and balance.
  • Advanced PD a person may have great difficulty walking; may be in a wheelchair or bed most of the day. The person will need assistance with all daily activities. Balancing the benefits of medications with side effects becomes more challenging.

I’m struggling with my diagnosis, and I need support. Where do I go to find it?

You’ve come to the right place! Join the Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s community to share your own experiences and learn from others. Click here to find a local support group.

Who is more likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease: Men or women?

PD affects both men and women, though about 50% more men are affected than women.

Is Parkinson’s Disease considered a movement disorder?

PD is a movement disorder that is degenerative and chronic, and symptoms continue and generally worsen over time.

Does Parkinson’s Disease only affect individuals of advanced age?

While PD does tend to affect people over age 60 more often, in about 5% to 10% of cases, “early onset” PD can begin in people as young as age 40.

When is Parkinson’s Awareness Month?

Parkinson’s Awareness Month is observed in April. Parkinson’s Awareness Month is an opportunity to increase awareness about the ailment and its symptoms, as well as to support those living with PD.

When did World Parkinson’s Day Start?

World Parkinson’s Day on April 11 began in 1997. It commemorates the birthdate of Dr. James Parkinson, the man who first identified the disease nearly 200 years ago.

Which is the best symbol for Parkinson’s Disease?

The red tulip is the symbol of Parkinson’s disease awareness. A purple ribbon is the chosen color to wear in support of people with the disease.

 

My Story: Bonnie Kays

Bonnie Kays might be one of the most active members of the Franklin Support Group. Not only is Bonnie on the Steering Committee, but she participates regularly in the Peterson Painters, Peterson Crafters and the Women with PD support group. If you are at any Franklin event, you can’t miss Bonnie.

Originally from Buffalo, NY Bonnie and her husband, David, moved to Franklin in 1990 after living in Michigan, Missouri, California and West Virginia. Since moving to Tennessee she has been very active with Williamson County schools and teaching parenting classes at the Williamson County Jail. “I hope they let me back in jail soon!” said Bonnie, since she has not been able to teach since COVID.

In 2019, Bonnie began noticing a tremor and realized she was moving slower. It was then she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Since being diagnosed Bonnie stated, “I feel like PD has taken my energy”. However, one wouldn’t notice since Bonnie keeps herself busy with PFP, teaching, reading, volunteering, and attending youth mission trips with her church (Franklin First United Methodist Church). She has also been know to zip line, parasail, and white water raft.

Bonnie learned about PFP through her doctor and as a member of the same church and friends for years, she was invited by the Torrence’s to attend the Franklin Support Group meetings. The Foundation has not only helped Bonnie learn about Parkinson’s but has provided her an outlet to be with individuals with similar experiences. “PFP has helped me cope with Parkinson’s just by being such a welcoming, supportive community.”

 

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Nutrition and PD

No specific diet is recommended for individuals living with Parkinson’s, but it is important to maintain overall good health.  Below are a few tips to consider but consult with your doctor or dietitian before starting any new diet. They can help design a healthy, balanced diet to fit your individual needs and improve well-being.

Maintaining Your Health

  • Avoid “fad” diets. Eat food from all food groups, following guidelines of the S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate program. Eating a variety of foods will help you get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need for good health.
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits, which provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates and can help you lower your intake of fat.
  • Limit sugar intake. A diet with lots of sugar can have too many calories and too few nutrients.
  • Incorporate foods high in antioxidants (which are important for overall brain health) into your diet. These include brightly colored and dark fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to reduce your risk of heart attack and certain types of cancer and to help you maintain a healthy weight.

Eating to Ease PD Symptoms

  • Drink enough water (six glasses a day) and eat fiber-rich foods, including brown rice, whole grains (breads with three grams or more of dietary fiber per slice), fruit and beans to ease digestive difficulties and constipation.
  • Take your medications with a full glass of water. It may help your body break down the medication more efficiently.
  • Limit sugar intake, alcohol, and caffeine particularly before bed, as they may interrupt sleep.
  • Snack on small quantities of walnuts, cashews, and other nuts to promote brain health. Also try to incorporate berries, which contain beneficial antioxidants, and foods that may have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain, like salmon, tuna, and dark, leafy green vegetables.

Tips for Getting Started

It is important to consult with your doctor before changing your diet as some of your medications maybe required to eat in timing with your meals. It is also recommended you bring in a registered dietitian, who can help you plan menus and make shopping lists for preparing nutritious meals that you like and that account for your individual needs and the timing of your medications.

For more information download the Parkinson’s Foundation Nutrition Matters Book

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My Story: Reggie Gaulle

If you have ever been to a Franklin Support Group meeting, or attended the Navigating the Parkinson’s Path Annual Expo, you have probably been greeted by Reggie.

Reggie Gaulle has been a part of the Parkinson’s community since 2008, when Patricia, Reggie’s wife was diagnosed with PD. Reggie was observing new tremors, increased fatigue, and cognitive decline in Patricia when they decided to visit her doctor for a diagnosis. As a care partner, Reggie has learned how Patricia’s “new brain” works and her changing limitations. “She and I have survived my cooking; the bills are paid, and the house is not in too bad a shape,” joked Reggie when asked how life has changed since retiring in 2020 and taking on more household tasks. Together, they enjoy traveling, watching tv, spending time with others and helping others in the Parkinson’s Community.

Reggie is part of the Franklin Support Group Steering Committee and head of the Encouragement Team Leaders. “The fellowship with others, who have been touched by this disease, has been invaluable,” said Reggie. The programs, services, and information provided through PFP events have provided insight on how to navigate this journey the Gaulle’s call life. “It is not over yet. However, with the help of the professionals in our lives [great doctors, nurses and therapists] and the fellowship we have met on this journey, I feel that we will both make it, and continue to enjoy the latter part of our life together.”

 

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My Story: Don Thomas

The Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s had the opportunity to speak with Nashville native, Don Thomas and his journey with Parkinson’s. Don grew up in the Nashville area for most of his life. He attended Glencliff High School and then to Middle TN State University for college and graduate school.   In 1973, he married his wife, Vicki, and they have 3 children and 2 grandchildren.  Before retiring Don worked in medical sales and sales management, including VP of Sales for OrthoHelix Medical.

After experiencing tremors in his left hand, Don visited Dr. Fang at Vanderbilt and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012. It was the same Dr. Fang who introduced him to PFP. Don says “interaction with the members [of PFP support groups] and hearing how they approach their myriad of problems faced day to day” support him throughout his Parkinson’s journey. Not only does the foundation provide support for Don, but he stated his wife has built a support system.

Even though Don is living with Parkinson’s he is not letting the diagnosis affect his golf game or spending time with his grandchildren in Charleston, SC.

 

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Peterson Voices are Growing Stronger

Studies suggest that singing interventions have the potential to increase vocal loudness, respiratory muscle strength, and voice-related quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Communication impairment is common among Parkinson’s patients. Around 90% of those living with Parkinson’s have voice and speech changes, and a patient’s voice can become difficult to hear due to throat muscle rigidity (stiffness). This in turn can cause a patient to remove themselves from social interactions and lose confidence.

The Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s partnered with In Harmony Music to start the Peterson’s Choir which has recently been renamed Peterson Voices, a group led by choral director Carrie Friddell, a nationally board-certified Music Therapist. Since 2017, the group has been meeting weekly to lift up their voices, not only to sing but perform vocal exercises that helps improve overall vocal health. The group continued their practices on zoom during Covid and now offers a hybrid in-person and zoom weekly practice.

“I had gone from a high soprano with the Nashville symphony to barely being able to sing alto” states Laurie. “Attending this group weekly, brought me back to a soprano within 6 months.”

Data conducted by Vanderbilt on the choir in 2018, reiterated what many research studies have shown. During the informal data collected participants were asked to sustain the sound “ahhh” at their comfortable volume for as long as possible. As a group, the participants improved from an average of 12.5 seconds to 15.5 seconds over the course of a year.  Increase in duration for this measure suggests improvement in breath support. “I couldn’t sing a note for longer than 6 seconds, now I can go hold a note for 10 or 12 seconds.” states John.

Additionally, the “ahhh” volume showed an increase of 6-10 dB, essentially doubling their volume and making the group’s sound increase significantly.

Not only does the choir enjoy their weekly meetings, but they have had the opportunity to perform in the community. They have performed at local nursing homes, the Franklin Support Group holiday party, even at a neurology event at Vanderbilt.

For more information on the Peterson Voices, contact Carrie Friddell, MT-BC at carrie@inharmonymusicmidtn.com

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Tips for Cooking with Parkinson’s

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” -George Bernard Shaw

Enjoying a meal is a simple pleasure in life. When we cook and eat, we use many complex motor skills without thinking. For someone living with Parkinson’s preparing or enjoying a meal may become challenging, frustrating, or even embarrassing if you struggle with tremors, rigidity, balance, coordination, dysphagia and other symptoms.

There are plenty of kitchen tools specifically designed for Parkinson’s patients that can make cooking and eating with Parkinson’s easier and more enjoyable. Below are a few of our suggestions.

  • Weighted utensils help steady your hand, keeping food on your utensil as it journeys from your plate to your mouth.
  • Get gadgets with big, cushioned handles such as a potato peeler, spatula or even spice grinders and more. The larger grip will also help steady tremors while in use. You may also want to consider grip foam tubing that can be added to your existing utensils.
  • Consider ditching the knife and use manual or electric vegetable choppers or food processers to chop, slice, and dice your food.
  • Not ready to ditch the knife and cutting board? Look into an adaptive cutting board that has built-up sides and non-slip backing to keep items in place while cutting.
  • Look for pots and dishware with suction cups at the bottom to stick to the counter and table.
  • Using a straw can reduce the need to pick up and hold a cup, assisting with grip and tremors.

These are only a few suggestions of kitchen gadgets to help make cooking and eating easier for individuals living with Parkinson’s. Visit your local home goods store or visit Amazon to find more Parkinson’s must-have kitchen gadgets.

These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by PFP of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

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Exercise and Parkinson’s

Exercise is an important part of anyone living a healthy lifestyle. For people living with Parkinson’s Disease exercise is medicine! Engaging in regular exercise and physical activity is an essential component to maintaining balance, mobility, and activities of daily life for Parkinson’s patients. Studies have linked exercise to a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and slower progression.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to exercise. The type of activities you do depends on your symptoms and challenges. However, according to the UCSF – Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center aerobic exercises and those that challenge an individual to change tempo, activity, or direction (known as “random practice” exercises) are beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. Types of exercises that do this include:

  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Sports (ping pong, golf, tennis)

Everyone should exercise more, whether or not they have Parkinson’s. So go grab some friends and get started today! The Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s works with local organizations to help you get moving including our Rock Steady Boxing Groups, Movement for PD and the Therapy Gym. Click here to find a group near you. Be sure to pick an exercise you enjoy and remember that consistency is key!! Always consult your neurologist and primary care doctor before starting any exercise routine.

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Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Awareness month. This month is all about raising awareness about Parkinson’s and the available resources developed to make life better for people living with Parkinson’s, their care partners, family members and friends.

Did you Know?

April was chosen as Parkinson’s Awareness month to honor James Parkinson and his discoveries. Dr. Parkinson was a neurologist who published a paper in 1817 “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy”. The disease was later named after Dr. Parkinson many years after getting noticed by the medical community. Read the full essay here

The red tulip is the symbol of Parkinson’s Disease. This red tulip was developed by J.W.S. Van der Wereld, a Dutch horticulturist who had Parkinson’s disease. He dedicated and named this tulip for James Parkinson.

There is no standard diagnostic test for Parkinson’s. Many individuals living with Parkinson’s are not diagnosed for several months if not years after noticing their first symptom.

The cause is unknown. Genetics cause about 10 to 15 percent of all Parkinson’s. The other 85 to 90 percent of cases are classified as sporadic (or occasional). Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications, surgery and lifestyle modifications.

Want to know more?

There are a number of great resources on Parkinson’s Disease, and you can learn in a lot of different ways.

DOWNLOADABLE DOCUMENTS

The Parkinson’s Handbook

Published by the American Parkinson Disease Association, 2019

This 48 page handbook provides information about Parkinson’s along with symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Every Victory Counts

Published by the Davis Phinney Foundation, 2019

People living with Parkinson’s, their care partners and families, and friends of those living with Parkinson’s want reliable and practical information that will help them improve their quality of life today and every day.

PODCAST:

Parkinson’s: Substantial Matters

Every other Tuesday, The Parkinson’s Foundation brings you a new episode of Substantial Matters: Life and Science of Parkinson’s. Host Dan Keller, PhD, interviews Parkinson’s experts to highlight the treatments and techniques that can help you live a better life now, as well as the research that can bring a better tomorrow. Episodes focus on a range of topics relevant to your daily life, including new levodopa delivery methods, exercise, clinical trials, nutrition and more!

The Parkinson’s Podcast

The Parkinson’s Podcast™ is produced by the Davis Phinney Foundation and covers topics ranging from Parkinson’s basics to how to talk to kids and families about Parkinson’s to new topics in the field like palliative care and much more.

 

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