Shaving safely is the latest challenge while living with Parkinson’s
Even with deep brain stimulation, personal grooming can be frustrating
Here is a riddle for you:
“How do people with Parkinson’s disease shave?”
In the years before he had deep brain stimulation surgery, Arman suffered from severe dyskinesia as a result of his medication. His uncontrollable right leg was constantly in motion. This combination of shaving and dyskinesia can be hazardous. When your leg is kicking uncontrollably, it’s impossible to focus on other tasks, particularly taking a razor to your neck.
A solution must be out there
Arman never enjoyed shaving his face, even well before his diagnosis at 38. When I met him in 1985, when we were both teenagers, he always had a scruffy, unshaven face. He was lucky that the 5 o’clock shadow was a look he could easily pull off, and it happened to be in fashion.
Shaving for Arman means tackling the dark, thick hair on his face, and then his head, which is now nearly bald. (Although when shaving his hair, I often remark, “For a bald guy, you actually have a lot of hair!”)
After the diagnosis, we tried every type of gadget and gimmick we could get our hands on, hoping to make shaving easier for both of us. Arman is a huge fan of infomercials and the “as seen on TV” section at the store. Over time, almost every drawer in our bathroom was filled with products that eventually landed in the trash.
In addition to purchasing an entire bathroom full of unhelpful products, he also tried laser hair removal. That way, he wouldn’t ever have to shave again. Perhaps it would be the miracle we had been searching for?
Unfortunately, the laser treatments were painful and didn’t seem to eliminate even a single hair. It was a complete waste of time.
When Arman had deep brain stimulation to help ease his intense dyskinesia and other Parkinson’s symptoms, we were fortunate that his leg settled down. I was hopeful that the shaving issue would now be behind us, and for a while, it was. But the continual progression of other symptoms, such as the slowness and stiffness of his arms and neck, now seems almost as difficult as his uncontrollable leg had been.
Another challenge after deep brain stimulation is the delicate scars on Arman’s head. His scalp has two large bumps where holes were drilled for the leads. The holes are filled with plastic caps that sit just under the scalp. There is also an extension wire that runs from the leads in the brain to the stimulator, which is located under the skin and looks like a large vein. Shaving his head around these areas is stressful, even years after the scars have healed. And Arman only trusts me to shave near the scars, so he’s not comfortable going to a barber shop.
That’s where we’re currently at as we continue to soldier on and look for ways to make self-care and grooming easier. I hope the next set of gadgets Arman buys will be a game-changer!
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.