Does excessive sweat ever get you down? Keep you from going out? Or make you feel like you can’t be yourself?
You’re not alone.
In fact, you may be among the 360+ million people worldwide who suffer from an extreme sweating condition called hyperhidrosis.
Many people struggle with hyperhidrosis throughout childhood and well into adulthood without ever knowing they have it.
In this article we’ll explore the symptoms, causes, and possible treatments for hyperhidrosis.
Why Do We Sweat?
We sweat to regulate our body temperature. It’s the body’s natural and healthy way to cool itself.
When body temperature rises, our nervous system will trigger the sweat glands to release extra heat via sweat on the skin surface. Our body temperature fluctuates frequently due to physical activity, weather, wardrobe, diet and common stressors.
Although sweating can be socially destructive, it’s a necessary bodily function that prevents overheating and heat stroke.
What is hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is excessive and uncontrollable sweating. This is the kind of sweating that’s more than what the body needs to cool itself. The word “hyperhidrosis” means too much (hyper) sweating (hidrosis). People with hyperhidrosis produce four to five times more sweat than normal.
Hyperhidrosis is a physiological problem. Those who suffer from it attest that it also messes up their quality of life– psychologically, emotionally and socially. It is a silent handicap. Almost half of those with hyperhidrosis suffer in silence for years before seeking help.
Hyperhidrosis affects nearly 15 million people in the United States. It affects men and women equally. The vast majority of hyperhidrosis sufferers find it embarrassing. 65% experience excessive sweating of the underarms (axillary hyperhidrosis). Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat hyperhidrosis.
What causes hyperhidrosis?
Why do some people sweat excessively, uncontrollably and for absolutly no reason? Most types of hyperhidrosis are caused by an over stimulation of the sweat glands. Sweat triggers also include stress or genetic factors. Unrelated health problem or disease trigger another form of the condition. (see below)
Some life changes, such as pregnancy or menopause, can also cause profuse sweating. Yet, many of us experience excessive sweating without these kinds of changes in our lives.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis…
Hyperhidrosis occurs in two major classifications or types; primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary general hyperhidrosis.
Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis
This type of hyperhidrosis affects only specific parts of the body where there are high numbers of sweat glands. Primary focal hyperhidrosis usually starts during adolescence, but sometimes earlier. It is usually inherited and is genetic in nature.
There are four main body areas affected by primary hyperhidrosis:
- 1) Armpits – Axillary Hyperhidrosis.
- 2) Hands – Palmar Hyperhidrosis.
- 3) Feet – Plantar Hyperhidrosis.
- 4) Head and Face – Craniofacial Hyperhidrosis.
Secondary General Hyperhidrosis
Unlike primary focal hyperhidrosis, secondary hyperhidrosis (also known as generalized hyperhidrosis or diaphoresis) is characterized by excessive sweating all over the body.
General hyperhidrosis can be present from birth or can be caused by an underlying medical condition. Secondary hyperhidrosis can also be a side effect of certain drugs and presciption medications.
If you have one of these medical conditions and experience excessive, full-body sweating, talk to your doctor to see what solutions are available.
If hyperhidrosis goes unchecked, it can have a negative impact on social life and even lead to minor skin infections.
Social and Emotional
This is the most obvious of hyperhidrosis complications. Sweaty armpits can lead to awkward hugs, embarrassing corporate encounters, and unnecessary stress on high school and college students. A serious case of sweaty underarms can ultimately turn a social butterfly into a cave dwelling hermit.
Sweaty palms can sap one’s confidence and work performance. Slippery equipment, golf clubs, keyboards, and game controllers are just a few of the annoying side effects of excessive hand sweating.
A sweaty face can quickly turn an impressive interview into an awkward distraction. The list goes on and on…
The truth is, hyperhidrosis really stinks (literally and figuratively). The really sad part… most individuals don’t know they have it and never take the proper steps to treat or control it.
Hyperhidrosis can lead to minor skin conditions like athlete’s foot, jock itch, warts and some serious body odor (bromhidrosis).
Other infections that can be triggered by untreated hyperhidrosis include Dermatophytosis, Pitted Keratolysis, Verruca Plantaris, and Ingrown Toenails.
Underlying Health Conditions
If you think you might have secondary hyperhidrosis, talk to your doctor right away. Secondary hyperhidrosis is often a symptom of other illnesses. Treating the underlying illness often stops the excessive sweating.
If you think you might have primary hyperhidrosis, talk to a dermatologist. Don’t suffer in silence. There are treatments and products that can help. Let’s look at some…
There are many treatments that have proven effective in reducing the effects of hyperhidrosis, including antiperspirants, medications, and other advanced procedures.
Prescription Strength and Clinical Strength Antiperspirants
Many doctors prescribe and recommend a strong antiperspirant to treat hyperhidrosis. Clinical strength antiperspirants are effective as a result of their high concentration of aluminum chloride.
Aluminum chloride is the active ingredient in antiperspirant that does the actual sweat blocking. Antiperspirants can be used nearly anywhere on the body to control profuse sweating.
Some clinical strength antiperspirants can control excessive sweating for up to 4 days or more with just one application.
Prescription Hyperhidrosis Creams
Prescription creams and topicals containing glycopyrrolate (also known as glycopyrronium bromide) are useful in treating craniofacial hyperhidrosis or sweating of the face and head. Glycopyrrolate is a compound used to treat ulcers and excessive drooling.
Some medications taken by mouth block the chemicals that allow certain nerves to communicate with each other. By cutting off nerve communication some people have experienced reduced sweating.
These fall into two main categories: anticholinergics and beta blockers. But, there can be some unwanted side effects by taking these hyperhidrosis pills that include dry mouth, blurred vision and bladder problems. These include medications such as oxybutynin, glycopyrrolate, benztropine and propantheline.
Some medications prescribed for depression can also decrease sweat gland output. These medicines may also help to decrease the anxiety that worsens hyperhidrosis.
Botox for Hyperhidrosis
Treatment with botulinum toxin (Botox) is a long-term solution that temporarily blocks the nerves that cause sweating.
If you and your doctor opt for botulinum toxin injections, your skin will first be anesthetized. Each affected area of your body will receive several injections to ensure that all the nerves have been treated.
The desired effects can last 6 to 12 months before the treatment must be repeated. While effective, this treatment is painful and some people experience temporary muscle pain in the treated areas.
An easy way of understanding this procedure is to think of it as an injection without a needle. It is non-invasive and, uses a small electric current to drive medications through the skin. Iontophoresis is often used to treat palmoplantar hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis Surgery and Other Advanced Treatments
If topical or medications taken by mouth don’t relieve excessive sweating, there are several other possible treatments. These may eliminate or at least greatly improve excessive perspiration. These include hyperhidrosis surgery or other invasive and expensive approaches. All of these must be prescribed by a doctor and administered in a doctor’s office of hospital.
This treatment uses a device that delivers microwave energy to the targeted sweat glands. The procedure requires two 20 to 30 minute sessions, 90 days apart. Microwave therapy is expensive and may not be widely available. Unwanted side effects include a sensation change in the skin and possible discomfort.
miraDry is a newer axillary hyperhidrosis treatment that also uses microwave energy to destroy targeted sweat glands. A doctor administers local anesthesia and then uses a hand-held device to suck sweat glands closer to the skin surface. The device then heats and destroys the underarm sweat glands while cooling the top layers of skin. miraDry has proven effective but will leave a considerable dent in your wallet.
Sweat Gland Removal
If profuse sweating is affecting only the armpits, removing the sweat glands may offer a permanent solution. Suction curettage is a minimally invasive procedure. A dermatologist will insert a suction tool into two small incisions. He/she then removes the sweat glands. This is a popular treatment of hyperhidrosis when other remedies fail to produce positive results.
Nerve Surgery (sympathectomy)
This is a procedure in which a surgeon cuts, burns or clamps spinal nerves that control sweating in the hands (palmar hyperhidrosis). Sometimes this treatment causes excessive compensatory sweating in other parts of the body.
Lifestyle Hacks to Help Reduce Effects of Hyperhidrosis
For many who suffer from hyperhidrosis, there are simple tricks that can be effective reducing excessive sweat. Lifestyle and other non-prescription remedies may also be good places to start searching for relief. These are basic, common sense ideas but they’re worth noting.
Bathe / Shower Daily
Regular bathing will help keep skin-borne bacteria in check. When finished, dry thoroughly with a clean towel especially between toes and under the arms. If you don’t have access to a shower, try using cleansing shower wipes.
Go Barefoot to Help Sweaty Feet
If going without shoes and socks isn’t possible, at least slip out of the shoes now and then throughout the day. Give your feet a chance to air out.
Choose Shoes and Socks Made of Natural Materials
Shoes made of leather or natural fabrics can help prevent sweaty feet by allowing your feet to breathe. During periods of high activity or exercise, moisture wicking socks are a good choice.
Wear Light Fabrics and Loose Fitting Clothing
It’s a good idea to wear natural fabrics like cotton, wool or silk. These fabrics allow your skin to breath. When exercising, wear moisture-wicking clothing. Dress in layers to avoid overheating.
Sweat Proof Undershirts
While a sweat proof undershirt won’t stop you from perspiring, it can absorb sweat throughout the day. This creates the perception of dry underarms and can keep embarrassing sweat marks and sweat stains at bay.
Hyperhidrosis Remedies and Natural Treatments
There are many who may prefer a hyperhirosis natural treatment. These include the use of herbs, diet, vitamins, supplements, and relaxation techniques.
Practicing yoga can relax the body and reduce stress. Entire routines designed for reducing hyperhidrosis can be found online.
There are a number of case studies indicating that acupuncture may be effective for some sufferers of primary hyperhidrosis. The duration of the improvement has yet to be determined.
Hypnosis by a hypnosis practitioner or self-hypnosis have been suggested as alternative treatments. According to first-hand reports, positive results are dubious.
Fitness and hygiene
Regular exercise and avoiding obesity can be key factors in managing hyperhidrosis. Also reduce or eliminate the use of skin lotions and makeup or find natural substitutes.
Some dieticians recommend a diet of 80% plant-based foods to help control sweating. Along with plant-based (preferably organic) foods, they recommend eliminating MSG, GMOs and all trans fats. If meat is included, eat only small amounts of unprocessed, grass-fed meats. Vitamins B and D can help too.
Advocates of herbal solutions have identified several herbal remedies that reportedly help manage hyperhidrosis. These include Witch Hazel, Sage, Valerian Root, St. John’s Wort, Burdock and Astragalus among others. Many are astringents that shrink skin pores when applied topically. Others exert a positive effect on the endocrine system when taken internally.
Hyperhidrosis Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re one of the estimated 15 million who suffer from hyperhidrosis, you probably have questions. Here are some of the most asked questions regarding excessive sweating and hyperhidrosis.
Do I have hyperhidrosis?
If you experience episodes of excessive sweating that occur at least once a week and for no clear reason you probably have hyperhidrosis. These include night sweats.
What is the best treatment for hyperhidrosis?
Everyone is different and each person will react differently to hyperhidrosis treatments. Depending on the seriousness of your hyperhidrosis symptoms, you’ll want to review the available treatments and decide which is best for you. Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.
Is hyperhidrosis curable?
There is no known cure, no silver bullet for hyperhidrosis. However, many of the treatments described above are effective and can reduce or eliminate symptoms. They can get you feeling good again and functioning more effectively. Life can be better.
There is hope. There are many effective treatments that can reduce or eliminate your hyperhidrosis. Choose the one(s) that are best suited to you and your lifestyle.