“And so with the sunshine and the great burst of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had the familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)
With summer a mere month away, I like to remind myself and others to protect our skin from the harmful sun rays which can lead to skin cancers. Although for me, summer time is a season of renewal along with the promise of new adventures and endless possibilities; it is also a reminder of what unprotected skin can become. I lost my father to Merkel’s carcinoma from years of fishing at the lake without any sunblock. My grandmother and I have had several bouts of melanoma – so no matter what else you do in life always wear sunscreen.
Wearing sunscreen is not just good advice but it is a crucial tool in the scope of Parkinson’s treatments just like exercising in helping us maintain and maximize quality of life. Those of us who have Parkinson’s disease already feel the effects of the disease on our skin daily from the eczema/ atopic dermatitis (scaly, flaky, itchy patches of dry skin more commonly behind the ears, in scalp, around the nose and forehead) plaguing our faces, to the excessive sweating driving us insane, to the increased risk of melanoma (2 to 7x higher than normal population) which causes us to visit the dermatologists more frequently than we wished.. However, these pesky problems should not keep us from enjoying our summer while protecting our skin which is our first barrier of defense against disease. Therefore we must learn to care for our skin by being proactive particularly during extreme heat or cold.
If you happen to be of darker complexion like me don’t assume that you are protected and out of the water from getting melanoma especially if you are young woman with PD. In fact, according to the Journal of the American academy of Dermatology highest risk of melanoma occurs in ages 15-29 while nearly half of black and a third of Hispanic women are diagnosed with melanoma in later stages compare to less than a third of white women. Furthermore, women of color like me have presentation in soles, palms, and nail beds and other areas not directly exposed to the sun. So along with sunscreen protection you must also get routine exams (self and by a professional). Case in point, is that 2 of my melanomas were detected on self- exam while I was trying on bathing suits for the summer! These were in areas not usually exposed to the sunlight.
Despite possible worsening of eczema and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) with heat, pollen’s, and stress, I still look forward with anticipation to this time of year. Not only because my birthday happens to be in the summer, but also because I crave the freedom of sitting on a beach somewhere contemplating the waves, enjoying the ocean breeze while I cherish the feeling of sand between my toes.
Go ahead show your skin off this summer remembering to let go of all the stress and anxiety if even for a few moments – while you soak up some much needed vitamin D while you enjoy the ocean, a walk through a trail nestled in the trees, or have tea in your back yard.
If you go to the beach wear sunglasses and don’t forget to apply sunscreen even between your toes. Show of those toes in colorful hues but I would refrain from using shellac – it uses UV light to bake in – is like getting a tan for your nails.
Use light clothing that is breathable – fortunately many retail stores are carrying a line of protective UV light clothing. You can find some of this at Talbot’s (one of my favorite places to shop).
If you are one of those persons who have severe autonomic dysfunction due to PD or simply sweat due to Parkinson’s medication (e.g. amantadine) aside from using cooling gels or jackets there is a new medication which might allow you to enjoy your summer without feeling like you will simply melt away. We want to glow not glisten. Talk to your doctor about Qbrexa.
Go ahead and flaunt that new hat- you know you want to- this will protect your face from getting burned but also keep eczema at bay- if this is still a problem there a few treatments your dermatologist can recommend things like Elidel, Eucrisa (I prefer because not steroid based), ketoconazole shampoo and triamcinolone.
Above all have fun and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate with water and applying creams that are saturated with vitamins and oils after a long day in the sun.
Douglas Deborah. (S.O.S) the Oprah magazine June 2018 9(6):109-113
All rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD