Hyperhidrosis: What it is and What to Do About It

Sweating is cool, literally. When the body heats up, sweating helps cool it down, preventing you from overheating.

Of course, sweating can also be a nuisance, staining your clothes or embarrassing you on the job or, perhaps worse, on a date. Some people sweat more than others. But when sweating is excessive, and for no apparent reason (unrelated to heat or exercise), you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis.

What is hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is a skin disorder. It’s characterized by sweating more than is required to maintain regulation of normal body temperature. Many people with hyperhidrosis sweat from one or two areas of the body, such as their palms, feet, underarms, or head.Hyperhidrosis is diagnosed when it creates significant emotional, physical, or social discomfort for patients. This can have a negative impact on their quality of life.For example, some people may experience physical complications, such as infection caused by increased skin moisture. Others may be impacted psychologically, having significant anxiety or embarrassment about visible signs of sweating or potential body odor.

Who gets it?

According to 2016 research, hyperhidrosis may affect 4.8% of the US population, impacting nearly 15.3 million people. But not many are talking about it. While 70% of people report severe excessive sweating in at least one body area, only 51% have discussed their excessive sweating with a healthcare professional.Dermatologists estimate only 3% of Americans have hyperhidrosis.There are varying reasons people may never see a doctor about excessive sweating, They may be too embarrassed to discuss it, or may not realize it’s a medical condition that’s treatable.Anyone can get hyperhidrosis, regardless of age, race, or the climate in which you live. Many people develop the condition as a child or teen. In fact, dermatologists believe children and adolescents are underdiagnosed when it comes to hyperhidrosis.

Why do people get hyperhidrosis?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the cause of hyperhidrosis may be dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, resulting in overactivity of otherwise normal sweat glands. The condition is classified into two categories: primary and secondary.People with primary hyperhidrosis are generally healthy with no underlying conditions that could contribute to excessive sweating. They are usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. Less common is secondary hyperhidrosis. This is excessive sweating that has an underlying cause.Some people are more likely to get hyperhidrosis than others. These include people who have a family member who sweats excessively, especially if the excessive sweating occurs in one or two areas of the body. People with a medical condition, such as diabetes or gout, may also be prone to the condition. And some women may develop excessive sweating after menopause.

Other causes of hyperhidrosis include:
  • certain medications
  • food supplements
  • tumor
  • injury
  • diabetes
  • frostbite
  • obesity
  • overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • neurologic disorders
  • other systemic diseases
What can you do about hyperhidrosis?

It’s important to see a doctor or dermatologist if you have excessive sweating that happens every week or lasts for at least six months. You should also talk to your doctor if it interferes with your daily activities.Many people find they can control excessive sweating with treatment. Dermatologists may recommend a variety of treatment options, including:

  • antiperspirants
  • prescription cloth wipes
  • medications that prevent the sweat glands from working
  • iontophoresis – a medical device that uses an electric current to temporarily shut down the sweat glands
  • botulinum toxin injections

In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgically removing the sweat glands, or getting a sympathectomy. This is a procedure to disconnect the nerves that send signals to the sweat glands.

Tips to manage sweating

There are also things you can do to help manage sweating:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid synthetic fabrics,

such as nylon.

  • Wear sandals or shoes made of natural material,

such as leather.

  • Try foot powder for sweaty feet and socks that

absorb moisture.

  • Avoid alcohol and spicy foods, which can make

sweating worse.

  • Keep the room temperature cool.
  • Bathe once a day to cool down.

The important thing to remember is you don’t have to live with excessive sweating. There are effective treatments for hyperhidrosis, and in many cases, they can greatly improve patients’ quality of life.

Christopher Byrne, PA-C, is a physician assistant who specializes in dermatology at Advanced Dermatology P.C.
Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery has over 50 offices in NY, NJ, CT and PA and is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology, as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies. www.advanceddermatologypc.com   

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