It's the middle of the day, and you've already soaked through the
armpits of your shirt. Your feet or hands are wet and clammy and you feel
tiny beads of sweat trickling down your temples. All this perspiration
is making you nervous, which only makes you sweat more.
If the above scenario is part of your daily life, you may be suffering
from hyperhidrosis. More than 220 million people around the world have
this condition, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
"Perspiration is a normal function, which allows the human body to
cool itself off," says
Michael Stouder, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
Mission Heritage Medical Group. "But with hyperhidrosis, this process doesn't work properly
and it results in excessive sweating. It's not limited to the armpits,
either--the feet, palms or head can produce sweat, too."
The best way to confirm if you have hyperhidrosis is to consult with a
doctor, who will do a physical exam and possibly run some tests. "The
physician may determine you have primary hyperhidrosis, where sweating
is concentrated in just a couple areas of the body and there isn't
an underlying cause," Dr. Stouder says. "Or you may have secondary
hyperhidrosis, where you sweat profusely all over your body. There's
usually an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes,
anxiety, or an overactive thyroid. Whatever the case, there are ways to manage
hyperhidrosis to make your daily life more comfortable."
Among the options your doctor may suggest:
Antiperspirant. "Deodorants only mask odors, but antiperspirants actually act as
plugs in the skin to stop sweat glands from overproducing," Dr. Stouder
says. "You can use an over-the-counter or prescription-strength antiperspirant
and it can be applied not just under the arms, but also to other parts
of the body where you experience hyperhidrosis, such as the soles of the
Natural deodorants may be something you want to consider.
Is it time to ditch your deodorant?
Iontophoresis. With this procedure, the hands or feet are placed in water while a machine
runs a low electrical current through it to stop the sweat glands from
Botox injections. Injections into the body parts affected by hyperhidrosis can
stop production of the chemical that gets the sweat glands going. "Treatments
usually require multiple injections at each site, but the Botox can be
effective for up to 10 months," Dr. Stouder says.
Prescription medication. Anticholinergics block the chemicals that can trigger sweating, while
beta blockers and benzodiazepines work on the central nervous system.
Each type of medication has its pros and cons, and a dosage and treatment
plan should be individualized to each patient, taking into account such
factors as the parts of the body affected by hyperhidrosis, patient age
and other medical conditions.
Surgery. There are several techniques that can be used to either remove the sweat
glands or sever the nerves leading to the glands. These are usually reserved
for advanced cases of hyperhidrosis.
"In addition to these treatment options, people with hyperhidrosis
should also wear clothing with moisture-wicking properties, or fabrics
in loose weaves, such as cotton or linen, that are breathable, light and
don't trap moisture," Dr. Stouder says. "If the feet are
affected, wear shoes in natural fabrics and
moisture-wicking socks, and set the shoes aside for a few days after wearing them so they can
dry out completely. And if night sweating is an issue, look for light
cotton bedding. Finally, if there are triggers that make hyperhidrosis
worse than at other times--say because of stress or spicy foods--know
them and avoid them as much as possible."
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.