The thought of sweating can be an unwanted experience, but there are many individuals around the world who must contend with more than just sweating occasionally, in fact, they may display symptoms of excessive sweating, or also known as hyperhidrosis. Excessive sweating and perspiration is a well known common problem, especially of the armpits, palms of the hands, and also the soles of the feet. Individuals who display symptoms of hyperhidrosis can find the ordeal incredibly distressing and it can have a critical impact on their lives. In many cases, individuals who are affected by excessive sweating often avoid social contact due to embarrassment. Nevertheless, the good news is, hyperhidrosis is a condition that is usually treatable in most cases.
What is excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)?
Some individuals may ask, ‘Why do I sweat so much?’, there can be many reasons for this. Regular sweating, aids our bodies to remain cool and keep our body temperature at a comfortable level during hot temperatures, such as warm climates, exercising or fever. However, if you find that you are sweating excessively (much more than normal), even when you are not exercising, nervous, stressed, or hot; you may have the condition, hyperhidrosis.
What can cause hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis can be pigeon holed into two different forms, based on whether a cause can be determined or identified. These two different forms of hyperhidrosis are known as primary and secondary hyperhidrosis.
What is primary hyperhidrosis?
Primary hyperhidrosis is when the symptoms of excessive sweating have no clear or obvious cause. Even though a cause may not be evident, it’s often thought to be caused by a problem which is linked a specific part of the nervous system known as the sympathetic nervous system. If this is the case, it may be your genes that are responsible for your excessive sweating.
What is secondary hyperhidrosis?
Secondary hyperhidrosis is when the cause can be identified. The cause of excessive sweating can come in a wide range of many factors and triggers, such as:
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Anxiety or stress.
- Low blood sugar levels (also known as hypoglycaemia).
- Medications (such as antidepressants).
- Effects of drugs or alcohol.
- Infections, disease or illness.
- Overactive thyroid gland (also known as hyperthyroidism).
How does hyperhidrosis affect different sexes?
In many known causes, it appears that the symptoms of hyperhidrosis are most noticeable in young adults, however, many sufferers of the condition often report that they first experienced the symptoms throughout their younger childhood. Women can also be affected, up to almost three times more than men, this can typically be the result of many hormone changes, such as pregnancy or menopause, where they are more than likely to experience night sweats, as a result.
However, many research results show that hyperhidrosis can affect men more so than women, this is due to men producing more sweat than women, in fact almost four times more each day. Even though both sexes have roughly the exact number of sweat glands, but due to men typically being physically larger, it means that they have a far more surface area of their bodies to keep cool. And let’s not forget to mention the hormonal differences that cause men to sweat more than women.
What treatment is available for hyperhidrosis?
Below you will discover many treatments that can help to reduce the symptoms of mild hyperhidrosis. It is also worth to consider the soaps and body shampoos that you are using, for example if you discover that particular soaps irritate your problem areas, try using a bland soap. Whenever possible, avoid known triggers that may make your symptoms worse, such as spicy food, alcohol or hot temperatures.
If you experience excessive underarm sweating:
- It’s recommended to use your regular antiperspirants more often that normal. Always remember the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. An antiperspirant reduces the release of sweat where as a deodorant only masks odors. You may also wish to consider over the counter antiperspirants that are designed to offer more protection against underarm sweating.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes and fabrics that highlight sweat marks. White and black coloured clothes are far less noticeable when damp or wet than many other colours. It’s recommended that you avoid wearing man-made fibres such as nylon.
- You may wish to consider using sweat shields, which are designed to help absorb excess sweat while protecting your clothing from staining.
If you experience excessive feet sweating:
- You may wish to change your socks throughout the day.
- Try an absorbent foot powder to absorb excess sweat and moisture.
- You may wish to use a strong antiperspirant that contains aluminium chloride.
However, for severe cases of hyperhidrosis, the following treatment may be far more beneficial than those listed above:
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections
Botulinum toxin injections (or better known as Botox injections) are typically used on individuals who are experiencing excessive underarm sweating. The treatment involves an abundance of very small injections which are placed just under the skin in the area that is affected. The botulinum prevents nerves within the skin, that are responsible for controlling the sweat glands from working as they should. Botulinum toxin injections are not available for the face or palms in order to prevent excess sweating due to the significant risks surrounding the procedure that can prevent muscles of the face and hands from working correctly.
Unfortunately botulinum toxin is not a permanent solution, with the effects wearing off after 4 to 12 months. Which means patients will need repeat treatments in order to keep their symptoms under control.
Iontophoresis is a form of electrical stimulation treatment. It is primarily used in order to treat excessive sweating from the soles of the feet and also the palms of the hands. Nevertheless, this form of treatment can be used for the underarms too. The iontophoresis treatment involves placing areas that are affected with symptoms of hyperhidrosis into water. A small (painless) electrical current is passed through the water. The thought of an electrical current in water may sound dangerous, but the treatment is entirely safe. Patients may feel some form of discomfort or a pins and needles sensation. Please note, you should never receive iontophoresis treatment if you have a metal implant, pacemaker or are pregnant.
Surgery is a possible option for individuals who have not seen improvements of their symptoms using the treatments listed above. For excessive underarm sweating, surgery can be carried out in order to remove the sweat glands from the underarm, this can be done by cutting away the sweat gland or removal by laser. Your doctor will be able to provide you which form of procedure would be best for your personal case.
Before you choose surgery, it’s essential that you speak to professionals about all your possible options. You should also consider the pro’s and con’s of a particular type of surgery and understand the procedure fully, as you would with any type of invasive treatment.
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