Don’t sweat it – how to treat excessive perspiration

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Every summer it happens – excessive heat and humidity making all of us sweat more than usual.  But for some people, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is as they will sweat up a storm causing embarrassment to the point of avoiding social situations.

Hyperhidrosis

This condition is called hyperhidrosis and is excessive sweating (“hyper” means much and “hidrosis” means sweating) particularly of the palms, armpits, and soles of the feet.  It affects up to 3 percent of people and is believed that women are more affected by it than men.  

Hyperhidrosis tends to run in families – often there is no underlying cause of heavy sweating which is called primary hyperhidrosis.  This is thought to be the result of a problem with the sympathetic nervous system.  Secondary hyperhidrosis can have a number of different triggers including menopause, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, certain medications or Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Normal sweating

Sweating or perspiration is a normal, healthy bodily response that helps regulate our body temperature.   Sweat is produced by up to 5 million sweat glands located all over the skin producing a watery fluid in response to environmental temperature, exercise or exertion, to having a fever or to emotional stimuli such as fear, anxiety, or sexual arousal.  When we sweat, our body’s very efficient air-conditioning system releases moisture that forms on our skin and when it evaporates heat is removed so you cool off.

It’s one thing to break out in a light sweat when the temperature rises.  But for someone with hyperhidrosis, your clothing can get drenched, sweaty hands dampen papers and books, and you dread being out in public because of looking more sweaty than normal.

Treating excessive sweating

If someone is experiencing a great deal of social anxiety, distress or discomfort, there are treatments that can alleviate this condition.  Here are some options to look into:

·      Antiperspirants – Mild conditions of hyperhidrosis may be helped with certain antiperspirants.  Over-the-counter products with a higher concentration of aluminum chloride or another aluminum chemical such as Dove Clinical Protection, or Secret Clinical Strength, can be ones to try.  There is a prescription strength antiperspirant sold in the United States called Drysol.  All of these products are for mild cases and they can be irritating to the skin.·      Oral prescription medications – There are a few prescription medications that are worth a try for excessive sweating.  A couple of different ones are Robinul and Ditropan.  These anticholinergic drugs do have some side effects that need to be taken into consideration for each individual patient and may not be suitable for everyone.  Side effects can include dry mouth, urinary retention, and in older people may increase problems of memory issues, confusion or difficulties with urination in older men who have an enlarged prostate.  Thoroughly discuss with your doctor if these medications would be right for you or not.

·      Botox – We all know Botox is primarily used to treat wrinkles but the FDA approved it as a treatment for hyperhidrosis of sweating of the hands and underarms.  Botox injections contain a natural, purified protein with the ability to temporarily block the secretion of the chemical responsible for “turning on” the body’s sweat glands.  By blocking or interrupting this chemical message, the botulinum toxin “turns off” sweating at the area where it is injected just below the surface of the skin. Some side effects might include weak muscles and Botox should not be used on anyone with a skin infection at the site or has urinary incontinence.

·      Laser therapy – Lasers have shown to be useful for treating excessive sweating by targeting specific body areas without injuring the surrounding tissue.  Lasers are useful in that they can precisely target, heat, and destroy the sweat glands, which are primarily found in a specific layer or tissue under the skin of the underarms.  The procedure usually takes less than an hour to complete.