An estimated 7.8 million Americans suffer with hyperhidrosis or heavy sweating. Also referred to in the medical field as polyhidrosis or sudorrhea, this condition isn’t dangerous to patients, but may be both uncomfortable and embarrassing in nature. Excessive sweating can affect the entire body (what’s known as generalized hyperhidrosis) or be concentrated to a specific area (what’s known as focal hyperhidrosis) such as the underarms (axillary hyperhidrosis), the feet (palmoplantar hyperhidrosis), face, or the palms.
Hyperhidrosis tends to appear during the adolescent years causing symptoms of noticeable sweat that soaks clothing, clammy palms and feet, irritation that may lead to bacterial or fungal infections, and self-consciousness that may lead to social withdrawal, resistance to human contact, and fear of body odors. While certain hereditary genes may be linked to hyperhidrosis, the following underlying causes may also be to blame:
- Heart disease
- Parkingson’s disease
- Hodgkin’s disease
- TB or HIV infection
- Spinal cord injury
- Anxiety disorder
- Prescription medications (i.e, antidepressants, etc.)
Luckily, several effective treatments can help manage the symptoms of hyperhidrosis:
1. Prescription deodorant and antiperspirant
Clinical deodorants and prescription antiperspirants may be recommended by your doctor to chemically impede sweat glands from producing perspiration. Prescription antiperspirants contain active aluminum chloride, which block the cells that produce sweat. However, keep in mind that aluminum chloride hexahydrate may be irritating to sensitive skin so always try a skin patch test before applying.
2. Botox injections
While botox injections are primarily used for cosmetic purposes, botulinum toxin (or Botox injections) are also used to block the nerves that trigger sweat glands, and sweat production in patients with hyperhidrosis. Botox injections are applied directly to specific areas to temporarily paralyze the muscles in the armpits, palms, face, and soles of the feet. Patients with hyperhidrosis often need a series of injections for results to be effective.
3. Nerve-blocking drugs
Anticholinergic medications may be prescribed in order to block parasympathetic nerve impulses that trigger heavy sweating in hyperhidrosis patients. According to several studies, patients typically experience reduced sweating within 2 weeks.
4. Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy
Also referred to as ETS, this surgery for hyperhidrosis patients is only an option when patients are unresponsive to other treatments. During ETS, a surgeon will cut the nerves that transmit signals to the sweat glands (i.e., of the face, armpits, feet or hands), thus, permanently severing nerve signals and sweat production from these specific areas.