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What is hyperhidrosis and how can it be treated?

What is hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that some people have that makes them sweat more than they need to. When the cause is unknown it’s called primary hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis can also be caused by an underlying condition (e.g., obesity, endocrine disorders, nerve damage, menopause, etc.). It can even be caused by using certain pharmaceutical drugs, however this is pretty uncommon. This is known as secondary hyperhidrosis.

The term generalized hyperhidrosis is used when sweating occurs over the entire body. When sweating occurs only in certain specific places, it is referred to as focal hyperhidrosis. Most often, focal hyperhidrosis affects:

  • Feet (plantar hyperhidrosis)
  • Underarms (axillary hyperhidrosis)
  • Face (facial hyperhidrosis)
  • Hands (palmar hyperhidrosis)

In detail

The science of hyperhidrosis
Normally, the body produces sweat in order to keep its temperature at a healthy level. Sometimes, for reasons scientists don’t yet understand, the nerves controlling the sweat glands become overactive. The result is hyperhidrosis.

How serious is hyperhidrosis?
While not life-threatening, hyperhidrosis has significant impacts on quality of life and productivity. Excessive sweating can damage the skin, promote infection and cause unpleasant odours. These outcomes are undesirable from both a medical and social point of view. Excessive sweating can also be inconvenient and costly.

Diagnosis

How hyperhidrosis is diagnosed
Hyperhidrosis is diagnosed by your doctor after conducting a full medical history and a physical exam. Some tests may be required to help rule out other diseases.

If you suffer from excessive sweating, you are not alone. It’s a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is estimated that 2.8% of the U.S. population is affected by some form of hyperhidrosis.

Treatment

There are a number of options for managing hyperhidrosis. These range from topical preparations to surgery. There is in fact no “right” way to treat somebody who has hyperhidrosis. Everybody is different, and therefore will need a different treatment. If you have hyperhidrosis, your doctor will discuss all of the options, and find one that best suits your situation. Treatment options include:

  • Oral medications: treating the condition with injected medication & drugs
  • Focal injections: interrupting the signal from between nerve and sweat glands, this is often done with Botox
  • Iontophoresis: applying low intensity electric current to the affected areas
  • Topical treatments: applying aluminum chloride hexahydrate
  • Surgery: severing the nerves that cause excess sweating

You may already be covered for treatment
Many employers offer extended health coverage through private insurance providers. If you are a student, you may be covered under your parent’s health plan.