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Autonomic Nervous System Issues in Parkinson’s Disease and AIDS

There are two health conditions that are known to drastically increase the chance of being affected by seborrheic dermatitis. And investigating the nervous system dysfunctions in these conditions uncovers some interesting clues further highlighting it’s potential role in seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.

Relationship Between Parkinson’s and Seborrheic Dermatitis

While the rate of seborrheic dermatitis in general population is estimated at roughly 3%, in individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease this figure rises closer to the 50% mark [1].

Because of this striking relationship, seborrheic dermatitis is often discussed and mentioned in literature examining Parkinson’s disease. For example, in a 2017 paper, the authors classified seborrheic dermatitis as a “premotor feature of Parkinson’s disease referable to dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system” [2].

To put this relationship in context it may make sense to first review Parkinson’s disease. While an in-depth review is outside the scope of this work, some of the most important features of the condition include:

  • A common neurodegenerative disorder
  • Can be genetic, but more frequently it is idiopathic (can suddenly arise)
  • No definitive treatment exist
  • Tremor, stiffness, and loss of balance are most prevalent symptoms

Possibly a more concise way to summarize the condition is that it is a myriad of symptoms that arise from the bodies inability to properly coordinate nervous system activity.

And two specific features of the Parkinson’s appear to be most relevant to the high rate of seborrheic dermatitis seen among those affected:

  • Abnormal sebum production [3]
  • Abnormal sweat function [4]

A repeating theme that we’ve seen in much of the evidence discussed in this chapter so far.

Additional Clues from Autonomic Nervous System Issues Seen in AIDS

The connection between AIDS and seborrheic dermatitis has already been previously mentioned in this book, but lets review it once again in the context of the nervous system.

Out of all health conditions, HIV AIDS appears to have the strongest influence on the likelihood of the individual developing seborrheic dermatitis (3% in the general population versus upwards of 34%-83% in AIDS [5]).

One way to look at this connection is that AIDS has a disastrous impact on immune function, allowing the most common suspect of seborrheic dermatitis, the malassezia yeast, to proliferate freely and wreck havoc on the skin surface. In this line of thought, the immune system and it’s ability to properly deal with malassezia yeasts is at the heart of the resulting skin symptoms.

However, another way to look at this connection is to consider the impact of AIDS on the autonomic nervous system. And a quick review of the literature reveals the following:

  • Autonomic nervous system dysfunction is common amongst individuals infected with HIV [6, 7]
  • Damage of the autonomic nerve fiber is a hallmark of HIV and occurs early in the course of the infection [8]
  • Possible reason for HIV to promote sympathetic bias is to improve it’s surival rate by changing the balance of the TH-1/TH-2 immune response (the former being considered more pro-inflamattory and the later more anti-inflamattory) [9]

Inline with this reasoning, it’s possible that the role of autonomic imbalance and it’s effect on both sebum production [10] and sweat output [11] leads to a disbalanced skin microflora; while the weakened immune system that favors the TH-1 response (inflammation) simply increase the magnitude of seborrheic dermatitis symptoms experienced.

Improving autonomic balance through cardiovascular exercise
Interestingly, one of the most straightforward methods to reduce the impact of HIVs effect on the autonomic immune function is through improvement of cardiovascular fitness [12].

Seborrheic Dermatitis the Owners Manual Book Cover

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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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