Called hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating can be a nuisance, not to mention an embarrassment. An estimated two to three percent of teenagers and adults deal with this problem. For some, it’s under the arms. For others, the condition rears its sweaty head on the soles of their feet, palms of their hands, or on their head. The stained clothes, stinky feet, or awkward handshakes make many people dread social interactions.
You know that some degree of sweat is normal and healthy, as it is how the body cools itself to prevent overheating. For people with hyperhidrosis, however, sweating happens any time, even when they’re not hot, stressed, or exercising.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live in fear of sweat. Keep reading to see if you have hyperhidrosis, why you have it, and what you can do about this clammy condition.
Does This Sound Like You?
Someone with hyperhidrosis experiences sweaty skin even when sitting in a cool environment. The sweat may wet clothing and bead up on the skin. Excessive sweating may interfere with normal activities. Because of the condition, it can become difficult to open a doorknob, type on the computer, hold a pen, or walk in shoes.
With hyperhidrosis, your skin may turn white and soft in the areas that remain constantly wet. Sometimes the skin may even begin to peel. Because of the damp skin, you will likely suffer from frequent skin infections such as jock itch or athlete’s foot.
Why Do You Sweat So Much?
There are two types of hyperhidrosis. Primary focal sweating only happens in one or several parts of the body. The sweat occurs on both sides of the body and starts after waking up in the morning. At least once a week, those with primary focal sweating experience excessive sweating. For an unknown reason, the nerves that control the sweat glands are triggered to produce excess sweat. Heat, anxiety, or exercise only makes the problem worse. Most people with primary focal hyperhidrosis are otherwise healthy individuals. Since hyperhidrosis runs in families, it’s common to have a family member with the same problem.
Secondary hyperhidrosis is generally the result of an underlying medical condition or the side effect of drugs. The sweating occurs in part or all areas the body and often happens during sleep.
What Can Be Done?
When sweating negatively affects your quality of life, makes you want to avoid social interactions, causes emotional distress, begins suddenly, or happens in your sleep, make an appointment to see your doctor. Once your doctor has determined the cause (if any) of your hyperhidrosis, treatment can begin. Clinical-strength antiperspirants that plug your sweat glands are usually the first line of treatment.
When antiperspirants fail to do the trick, other methods of treatment may be necessary. Prescription medications can help relieve sweating by preventing sweat glands from functioning. Unfortunately, these drugs can be dangerous for athletes or people who live in a warm climate, as it increases the risk for overheating.
An at-home treatment for sweating in your hands and feet is called iontophoresis. During this treatment, you immerse your hands and feet in water. A device then sends electrical currents to shut down sweat glands, reducing your body’s ability to sweat.
Botox injections into the underarms can be administered to block the chemical responsible for triggering the sweat glands. Electromagnetic energy or laser treatments can be used to destroy the sweat glands.
When all else fails, surgery may be performed to remove the sweat glands or destroy the nerves that signal the sweat glands.