Do you find you sweat constantly at times for no reason at all? Do you carry an extra shirt with you in case you sweat too much? Though it is normal to sweat a little when the weather is warm, if you are in a crowded area with minimal airflow, or at times when you feel a little anxious, do you also break out into a sweat randomly even in the best of conditions? If so, you may have hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating.
What is Hyperhidrosis?
Sweating is a necessary function to help keep your body cool when temperatures heat up. People with hyperhidrosis have overactive sweat glands causing them to sweat more than necessary even when the weather is ideal and there is otherwise no trigger. People with hyperhidrosis may sweat from their hands, feet, underarms, and face while the rest of the body remains dry. It is estimated that 5% or more of the population may have hyperhidrosis, but this condition is widely underreported as many are unaware that it is a treatable medical condition.
There are two general types of hyperhidrosis: primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary hyperhidrosis.
Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis
This type of hyperhidrosis begins when the patient is a child or in early adolescence and is otherwise healthy. Primary focal hyperhidrosis means that the cause is not due to another medication or external factor. This form generally affects one or a few areas of the body on both sides and occurs frequently with at least one major incident a week. Typical areas of sweating include the feet, hands, underarms, and face.
This type of hyperhidrosis means that the condition is caused by an underlying condition or a side effect of medication. With this form, sweating may occur across the entire body and often appears in adulthood. You may also sweat while you’re sleeping. It may be caused by medical conditions such as menopause, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis
Signs of hyperhidrosis may include:
Excessive sweating with episodes for at least 6 months without reason
Frequent episodes of sweating through clothing
Sweating that interferes with everyday activities
In severe cases, this condition may also increase a patient’s risk of skin irritation and infection as the skin is constantly wet becoming soft, white, and can peel easily. Patients may also experience athletes’ foot or jock itch frequently.
To ensure a proper diagnosis, several tests may be conducted after a physical exam and review of symptoms. One of the tests may include coating areas of the body with a starch-iodine powder that will change colors once the patient begins to sweat. Other medical tests such as blood and urine samples may also be conducted to determine if there is an underlying condition causing excessive sweating.
Treatment options will vary depending on the type of hyperhidrosis you have. If your sweating is due to an underlying condition, your treatment will focus on addressing your condition. For patients with primary hyperhidrosis, there are a variety of treatment options available.
Botulinum Toxin Injections
This option is ideal for patients who experience sweating primarily from their underarms. For this treatment, Botox formula is injected into the underarms and temporarily blocks a chemical that stimulates the sweat glands. This is a temporary treatment with effects that last at least 6 months so treatments must be repeated for lasting results.
Iontophoresis is an option for patients who excessively sweat from the hands and feet. This treatment can be performed at home with a prescription. Using this method, the patient will immerse their hands or feet in a shallow pan of tap water while the medical device sends a low-voltage current through the water. A treatment session usually takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes with two or three sessions a week.
Though there is no medication specific to the treatment of hyperhidrosis, there are medications that can reduce the frequency of sweating, the amount of sweating, and in some cases even prevent sweating. These medicines prevent sweating throughout the entire body and can be ideal. There may be associated risks and side effects with taking these medications, so be sure to discuss them with your doctor if oral medication is recommended.
Sweat Gland Removal Surgery
Surgery can be permanent and shouldn’t be considered as a first option. Instead, it should only be considered when all conservative options have been exhausted. Some surgeries are minimally invasive and work to destroy or damage the sweat glands under the arms, while others involve removing the sweat glands. Once the sweat glands are destroyed, they remain inactive forever. It can only be used under the arms.
There are several topical treatment options including prescription-strength antiperspirant that contains higher concentrations of aluminum chloride to help plug and block your sweat glands. Over time this should signal your body to stop producing as much sweat. Cloth wipes containing active ingredients to lessen sweating are also available but may stain skin and clothing over time.
Sweating is a necessary bodily function that helps maintain your health, but excessive sweating not related to heat or social situations can harm not only your health but your overall well-being. If you suspect you may have this condition, contact us so that we can get you the best treatment option for your lifestyle. For more information on hyperhidrosis or if you would like to schedule a consultation, contact Sullivan Dermatology today.