What Is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is a common disorder which produces a lot of unhappiness. Underarm problems tend to start in late adolescence, while palm and sole sweating often begins earlier, around age 13 (on the average). Untreated, these problems may continue throughout life.
Sweating is embarrassing, it stains clothes, ruins romance, and complicates business and social interactions. Severe cases can have serious practical consequences as well, making it hard for people who suffer from it to hold a pen, grip a car steering wheel, or shake hands.
What Causes Hyperhidrosis?
Although neurologic, endocrine, infectious, and other systemic diseases can sometimes cause hyperhidrosis, most cases occur in people who are otherwise healthy. Heat and emotions may trigger hyperhidrosis in some, but many who suffer from hyperhidrosis sweat nearly all their waking hours, regardless of their mood or the weather.
First Step for Treating Heavy Sweating:
The easiest way to tackle excessive sweating is with an antiperspirant, which most people already use on a daily basis. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum salts. When you roll them onto your skin, antiperspirants form a plug that blocks perspiration.
You can buy an antiperspirant over the counter at your local supermarket or drug store, or your doctor can prescribe one for you. Over-the-counter antiperspirants may be less irritating than prescription antiperspirants. Start with an over-the-counter brand, and if that doesn't work, ask your doctor about a prescription.
Many antiperspirants are sold combined with a deodorant, which won't stop you from sweating but will help control the odor from your sweat.
Next Steps: 4 Medical Treatments for Heavy Sweating
If antiperspirants aren't stopping your hands and feet from sweating too much, your doctor may recommend one of these medical treatments:
1. Iontophoresis: During this treatment, you sit with your hands, feet, or both in a shallow tray of water for about 20 to 30 minutes, while a low electrical current travels through the water. No one knows exactly how this treatment works, but experts believe it blocks sweat from getting to your skin's surface. You'll have to repeat this treatment at least a few times a week, but after several times you may stop sweating. Once you learn how to do iontophoresis, you can buy a machine to use at home. Some people only require a couple of treatments a month for maintenance.
Although iontophoresis is generally safe, because it uses an electrical current it's not recommended for women who are pregnant and people who have pacemakers or metal implants (including joint replacements), cardiac conditions, or epilepsy.
2. Botulinum toxin: Another treatment option for heavy sweating is injections of botulinum toxin A (Botox), the same medicine used for wrinkles. Botox is FDA-approved for treating excessive sweating of the underarms, but some doctors may also use it on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Botox works by preventing the release of a chemical that signals the sweat glands to activate. You may need to have several Botox injections, but the results can last for almost a year.
3. Anticholinergic drugs: When you've tried antiperspirants and treatments like iontophoresis and Botox and they haven't worked, your doctor might recommend a prescription medicine such as anticholinergic drugs. Oral anticholinergic drugs stop the activation of the sweat glands, but they aren't for everyone because they can have side effects such as blurred vision, heart palpitations, and urinary problems.