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What Is Hyperhidrosis (and How Do I Treat It?)

Monday, October 26th, 2020

The International Hyperhidrosis Society estimates that 365 million people suffer from excessive sweating. If you are among them or suspect that you are, it’s important to know the facts about hyperhidrosis.

In fact, hyperhidrosis is a medical condition, and treatment options do exist.

Read on to learn more about hyperhidrosis and its treatments.

What Is Hyperhidrosis (Face, Feet, Hands, Underarms, and Full Body Excessive Sweating)?

“Hydrosis” is the medical term for sweating. Of course, sweating is a natural bodily process that helps you cool down. It is necessary when you are active or exposed to extreme heat or other stimuli, like stress. As with many bodily processes, however, your body’s cooling process can go awry.

The prefix “hyper” means “over” or “excessive.” Thus, hyperhidrosis refers to a condition in which your body sweats more than normal. People with hyperhidrosis also sweat in the absence of stimuli, like exertion or heat.

Some people with hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating all over the body. Others find that their excessive sweating is limited to certain parts of the body. Common localised diagnoses include:

  • Axillary hyperhidrosis (underarms)
  • Facial hyperhidrosis (face)
  • Plantar hyperhidrosis (feet)
  • Palmar hyperhidrosis (hands)

While these locations tend to have a high concentration of sweat glands, people with hyperhidrosis don’t have more sweat glands than others. Rather, they have more active sweat glands than others. People with hyperhidrosis have an overactive sympathetic nerve response.

What Causes Excessive Sweating (Neurological Disorders, Genetics, Medication, and More)?

Hyperhidrosis can be a primary or secondary condition.

Primary hyperhidrosis is genetic. It can occur in the absence of any other medical conditions. Individuals with a family history of hyperhidrosis are more likely to experience excessive sweating.

Secondary hyperhidrosis occurs as a side effect of medication or a symptom of an underlying condition. Conditions commonly associated with hyperhidrosis include:

  • Hyperthyroidism and other hormonal disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Anxiety
  • Menopause
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Certain infections
  • Heart attack

In addition to these conditions, the International Hyperhidrosis Society publishes an extensive list of medications associated with hyperhidrosis. These include prescription and over-the-counter medications. Alcohol use can also cause excessive sweating.

When Should You See a Doctor for Excessive Sweating?

Many people with hyperhidrosis are reluctant to seek treatment. Some are embarrassed by their condition. Others incorrectly assume that their excessive sweating is simply a fact of life, even when excessive sweating significantly impacts their lives.

This is unfortunate because hyperhidrosis is not a reason for shame, and it need not be a fact of life. In fact, hyperhidrosis is a medical condition that can be treated.

You should see a medical professional and pursue treatment if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • Excessive sweating prevents you from going about your daily routine
  • Excessive sweating has caused you to experience mental distress or social withdrawal
  • A pattern of excessive sweating has come on suddenly
  • Excessive sweating occurs at night

As you prepare for your appointment, it’s important to keep track of your symptoms and make note of any triggers. These observations can help your doctor to diagnose and treat your condition.

Because excessive sweating can occur during a heart attack, it’s especially important to seek emergency medical assistance if you experience it along with chest pain, lightheadedness, or nausea.

How To Stop Excessive Sweating All Over the Body: What Are Hyperhidrosis Treatment Options?

Whether you’re hoping to eliminate localised hyperhidrosis or you’re wondering how to stop excessive sweating all over the body, treatment is available. Treatments include self-help measures, medications, injections, and surgery.

Self-Help Measures for Hyperhidrosis

You can take steps to calm your body’s sweat response. These include proper hygiene and skin care. Daily baths or showers are especially important if you sweat excessively. While bathing or showering won’t affect how much you sweat, it will help you control any odours associated with perspiration.

Proper hygiene, especially for those with hyperhidrosis, includes using an antiperspirant. Astringents can further help to clean the skin and constrict the pores.

If you suffer from excessive sweating, you should also take your condition into account when choosing clothes. Loose-fitting clothes made from natural materials, like cotton, are more breathable. They can, therefore, keep your body cooler and reduce sweating.

If your body’s sweat response is particularly reactive to stress, you might benefit from relaxation techniques.

Finally, modifying your eating habits to avoid skipping meals and reduce alcohol consumption can also help.

Many people with hyperhidrosis find some relief from these self-help measures. However, proper diagnosis and treatment from a medical professional remain necessary.

Medication for Hyperhidrosis

Treatment options for hyperhidrosis include various prescription medications.

Most hyperhidrosis patients find little relief from over-the-counter antiperspirants. Prescription-strength antiperspirants can be a more effective option. These include sprays, creams, and roll-ons. If you suffer from excessive sweating all over your body, you might find antiperspirant sprays easiest to use. Other topical applications are commonly used to treat localised hyperhidrosis.

Your doctor might also prescribe oral medications to control your hyperhidrosis.

If you experience secondary hyperhidrosis, taking medication to address the underlying condition can control excessive sweating.

The most common oral prescription medications for primary hyperhidrosis are anticholinergics. These drugs impede communication between the nerves and the sweat glands.

In the UK, the only anticholinergic approved to treat hyperhidrosis is propantheline. Other drugs in this class may be used off-label to treat hyperhidrosis. These include oxybutynin and glycopyrrolate.

While these drugs can provide effective relief, they can also cause side effects. Some of these may be severe. Side effects of anticholinergics include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Difficulty urinating

Recent studies have also noted a potential link between these drugs and dementia and brain atrophy.

Botox Injections

The side effects and long-term risks of prescription medications make them a less-than-appealing option for many hyperhidrosis patients. Many of these patients find that Botox injections offer a safer alternative.

Botox injections work by paralyzing the nerves that send signals to the sweat glands. Without these signals, your glands can’t produce sweat.

Botox treatments for hyperhidrosis focus on a particular area of the body. During treatment, your doctor will use a microneedle to inject a small amount of botulinum toxin protein in a grid-like pattern. These injections directly target the affected area. If you experience hyperhidrosis in more than one part of your body, you can receive multiple injections.

Treatment with Botox injections is quick. You can expect to be in the office for only 30-40 minutes. You’ll also be able to resume your regular routine within two hours of your visit.

When you choose to treat your hyperhidrosis with Botox, you can also expect quick results. Most patients experience a noticeable decrease in sweating within two days. Studies show that, within a week, Botox treatments reduce sweat production by an average of 87%.

These results usually last between six and twelve months. Eventually, the nerves in the treated area will regenerate. When this happens, you’ll begin to experience symptoms again. However, you can return for treatments as necessary.

Even when it is used on an ongoing basis, Botox is a safe treatment option for hyperhidrosis. Botox injections rarely cause side effects. The most common side effect is minor bruising at the injection site. This bruising usually fades within a few days.

Surgery

Conservative treatment options are effective for many hyperhidrosis patients. Patients who have pursued more conservative treatments without success may consider surgery.

Surgical Removal of the Sweat Glands

Some hyperhidrosis patients choose to have their sweat glands surgically removed. Besides excision, or cutting, procedures can include curettage, or scraping, and liposuction. The goal of this treatment is to remove or damage enough sweat glands to reduce perspiration in that area.

Compared to other surgery options, removing sweat glands involves fewer risks and a shorter recovery. Doctors usually perform these procedures in the office with the patient under local anaesthetic.

Fortunately, current research suggests that removing sweat glands from one area does not increase sweating elsewhere. However, sweat glands are tiny. Thus, precision in their removal can be difficult to achieve. Patients who elect this treatment may, therefore, see varied results.

Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy

Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) is the most invasive surgical treatment for hyperhidrosis. ETS involves cutting the nerve path from the spinal column to the sweat glands. This procedure is complicated and requires general anaesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon must temporarily collapse the patient’s lungs.

Risks include oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and even death. ETS patients also risk severe hypotension, arrhythmia, and heat intolerance.

A less serious but still problematic side effect of this surgery is compensatory sweating. Like many other treatments, ETS targets excessive sweating in a particular part of the body. While ETS may reduce sweating in the targeted area, it can lead to excessive sweating elsewhere.

Because ETS is irreversible, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits before pursuing this option. It’s also extremely wise to try less invasive treatments, like Botox injections, first.

Don’t Sweat It: Seek Effective Treatment for Hyperhydrosis

Hyperhidrosis is a common medical condition, affecting millions of people worldwide. Despite the condition’s prevalence, hyperhidrosis patients often suffer alone and in silence. This is unfortunate and unnecessary because treatment is available.

Treatments for hyperhidrosis include safe and effective options, like Botox injections. Talking to your doctor is the first step toward enjoying the benefits of these treatments.

Contact The Smile Practice to book an appointment or video consultation with Dr Ajay Murgai, our hyperhidrosis expert, today.

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