Hyperhidrosis: When Sweating Is More Than Just A Hygiene Issue

by Debolina Raja

While sweating is necessary to control your body temperature, excessive sweating is more than just a hygiene issue and can point towards an underlying health condition called hyperhidrosis—a problem affecting around 8 million Americans.

If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, it indicates that your body’s cooling mechanism has gone for a toss. You sweat at inappropriate times (when others don’t), which is not just limited to very hot temperatures. You sweat way more than normal, so much that you might not be able to grip objects such as a pen. Even freshening up, changing T-shirts and using absorbent pads do not help? Besides this, too much sweating can also lead to inflammation and other skin diseases such as hives, especially in overweight people.

Types Of Hyperhidrosis
Excessive sweating can be of two types:

  • Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis: This most commonly affects the scalp, feet, groin, and underarms. In primary focal hyperhidrosis, sweating is not caused by a medical condition and may start at adolescence or childhood. It might also run in the family.
  • Generalized Or Diffuse Hyperhidrosis: People with secondary or general hyperhidrosis often sweat while asleep, which can be triggered by an illness or infection, obesity, or hormonal conditions such as an over active thyroid, menopause, diabetes, skin diseases and cancer.[1]

Treatment Options
If you experience excessive sweating and have noticed no change despite maintaining good hygiene, it’s time to speak to your doctor to find out the best treatment option for you. Here are the most common ones.

1. Antiperspirants: Prescription antiperspirants have high aluminum chloride content and reduce sweating by plugging your sweat ducts. While they are mostly effective to combat sweat under your arms, they can also help with sweaty patches on the hands, feet and face. However, they can cause skin irritation, so consult your doctor before using them.

2. Injections: Botox, or botulinium toxin type A injections, have been approved by the US FDA to treat severe sweating under the arms. While the injection is effective in stopping spot sweating, it does not treat the condition but merely puts it on hold and provides temporary relief. It is commonly used to stop sweating under the arms, on the face, hands and feet. However, it might also trigger side effects such as drooping eyelids and muscle weakness.

3. Medication: Most doctors do not prescribe medications for generalized hyperhidrosis as they can cause serious side effects, such as difficulty in breathing, tightness in the chest, and loss of memory.

4. Iontophoresis: It is a procedure that helps treat sweating on the palms and feet, in which a small machine sends a mild electric current through water (using shallow pans) and through the skin’s surface. It has no significant or serious side effects and the benefits are long-term.[2] You may have to start with multiple sessions to help you sweat less, and later go for a maintenance schedule once a month, depending upon your condition.

5. Surgery: If nothing else works, you can go for a surgical procedure to remove your sweat glands. The other technique, known as endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, disrupts the signals from your spinal cord nerves to your sweat glands, but is used as a last resort due to the severe complications it can cause.

Say No To Sweat Naturally
Certain natural remedies can also be useful in curbing your sweating episodes. Here’s what you can try:

  • Potatoes can be an effective remedy to reduce sweating. Cut a potato into slices and rub under your arms and other sweat-prone areas once every day.
  • Witch hazel’s antiperspirant and astringent properties help in controlling perspiration. Dab some witch hazel extract on the affected area using a cotton ball. Do this twice a day for better results.
  • Take a tablespoon each of cornstarch and baking soda in a bowl and mix well. Dust some of this mixture every day on the sweat prone areas after a bath. Use this every day to be sweat-free.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more about Diseases & Conditions here.

References:
1. http://www.hyperhidrosisuk.org/
2. www.sweathelp.org

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