What is hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is the technical term for excessive sweating. It can start during adolescence and continue until adulthood, if not treated. Primary hyperhidrosis can occur without any triggers. The cause of primary hyperhidrosis is believed to be overactive sweat glands. It is usually genetic and can start as early as childhood in some cases. It tends to occur mainly in the hands, underarms, feet and face.
Excessive sweating can also be a symptom, or result of another medical condition such as brain or nerve disorders such as stroke, nerve or spinal cord injury, head trauma, or Parkinson’s disease. It can also be caused by anxiety, heart disease, cancer, overactive thyroid, menopause or obesity. It can also be a side effect from medications.
What are the symptoms of Hyperhidrosis?
If you are not sure whether or not you are suffering from hyperhidrosis, you might want to consider the following symptoms:
- frequently changing clothes due to excessive sweat stains
- avoiding handshakes due to excessively sweaty palms
- avoiding social contact due to extreme sweating
- skin problems such as acne or rash due to excessive sweat
How is it treated?
If you think you might be suffering from Hyperhidrosis you will want to consult your physician. Your doctor will be able to perform a test to determine if you do in fact suffer from this condition. He may perform a sweat test in which an iodine solution is applied to the affected area. The solution will turn dark blue wherever there is an excessive amount of sweat. The other test is a paper test in which a special type of paper is placed on the suspected area and then weighed. If the paper is heavy, this means that it has absorbed a high amount of sweat.
There are ways you can self-treat Hyperhidrosis. You can avoid triggers such as spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine and heat. There are over-the-counter antiperspirants you could use, however sometimes these cause severe allergic reactions. It is best to discuss treatment with your physician.
Your doctor may prescribe medications, however, these may have side severe effects and may not work for everyone. There is also a procedure called Iontophoresis, which utilizes electricity to temporarily suspend function of the sweat glands. This is recommended for hyperhidrosis of the hands and feet. Your hands and/or feet are placed into water and a mild electric current is passed through it and increases until you feel a slight tingling sensation. The procedure usually takes about twenty minutes and you will first need it two to three times a week, then once a month as symptoms decrease. Side effects are blisters and dry skin, but are rare.
You can also try Botox, which works best with severe underarm sweating or even underarm surgery, which is performed under local anesthesia and removes the sweat glands from the armpits. Another method for severe cases of hyperhidrosis is called Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) in which the nerves are cut, which “turns off” the trigger that produces the excessive sweat. This is neither effective or recommended for underarm hyperhidrosis.
You need to discuss your symptoms and forms of treatment with your physician before considering any of the above options. It is crucial to have a proper medical diagnosis before pursuing treatment for hyperhidrosis.