Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition that causes one to sweat excessively. Also known as seborrhea or polyhidrosis, the condition can affect any part of the body. It is, however, more localized to the hands, feet, face, and armpits. Hyperhidrosis is not life-threatening. Living with the condition can however affect your confidence and self-esteem. The International Hyperhidrosis Association estimates that about 7.8 Americans are living with hyperhidrosis. Excessive sweating is not only embarrassing but can also lead to skin infections. Symptoms usually begin in a person’s teenage years. If the condition is not managed, the problems can persist into adult life. Hyperhidrosis symptoms can be mild or severe. Severe symptoms are what cause discomfort, embarrassment, and anxiety. Luckily, treatment options are available.
Types of Hyperhidrosis
There are two main types of hyperhidrosis depending on the underlying cause.
Focal hyperhidrosis is the most common. It occurs due to problems in gene mutation and is therefore inheritable. With this type of hyperhidrosis, the nerve that controls sweat glands becomes overactive. This happens even in the absence of heat and physical activity. Focal hyperhidrosis mostly affects the hands, feet, and armpits. Symptoms begin before the age of 25. Nervousness and stress increase sweating.
Secondary or generalized hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating due to an underlying medical condition. It is less common and can occur all over the body and not just on the hands, feet, and armpits. Medical conditions that can cause excessive sweating include;
- Parkinson’s disease
- Thyroid disease
- Menopause hot flashes
- Certain cancers
- Nervous system disorders
Excessive sweating can also sometimes be a side effect of certain medications. Zinc supplements and naproxen are the main culprits. People going through opioid withdrawal will also sweat excessively.
Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis
Symptoms of hyperhidrosis vary depending on the cause and severity. Mild symptoms clear after some time but severe symptoms can affect your quality of life. Common symptoms include;
- Constant beads of sweat on the forehead and cheeks
- Soaking through your clothes too much that you need a change of outfit
- Pools of sweat under the arms and back
- Dripping of sweat down the hands
- One will also soak through their socks within a short time of wearing shoes
Unmanaged hyperhidrosis leads to more severe symptoms such as;
- Inflammation and itching of the affected area
- Unpleasant body odor caused by bacteria mixing with the sweat
- Skin discoloration, paleness, wrinkles, and visible cracks
- Maceration or disintegration of the skin on the soles of the feet
Diagnosis of Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis can be embarrassing which is why very few people seek treatment. If you are sweating in excess in the absence of heat and exercise, it can be a sign of hyperhidrosis. See a doctor immediately. The doctor will go through your medical history and ask you questions about the symptoms. The doctor will also order more tests to pinpoint the exact cause of your symptoms. Urine and blood tests help rule out underlying medical conditions like diabetes and hypoglycemia. Starch-iodine and paper tests are also used when diagnosing hyperhidrosis. These tests measure the amount of urine produced by your body.
How to Treat Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis has no cure. Treatment options can help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. They include;
Lifestyle changes: involve routine changes like wearing clothes made of breathable fabrics. You might also consider taking showers more often. Lifestyle changes don’t always make hyperhidrosis go away. They can, however, improve the condition over time and give you back your confidence.
Medications: Anticholinergic drugs and aluminum-based antiperspirants can help improve the symptoms. Aluminum-based antiperspirants seal sweat glands so that they don’t produce sweat. The doctor may prescribe either prescription-strength or over-the-counter varieties. The stronger ones are more effective. However, they also cause the most side effects like skin irritation.
Iontophoresis: This is a device used to control excessive sweating. If you experience excessive sweating, place your feet and hands in a shallow tub full of tap water. The device generates electric current through the tap water that blocks sweat glands. Each treatment session takes about 10 to 20 minutes.
Botox injections: Botox helps treat wrinkles and fine lines associated with old age. It’s also used in the treatment of involuntary muscle spasms and headaches. Botox works by polarizing muscles. The FDA has also approved it to treat excessive underarm sweating.
Microwave therapy: A device called a MiraDry helps control excess sweating. The device works by emitting heat which permanently destroys sweat glands. The procedure takes four hours and it’s mostly used on the armpits.
Laser treatment: Laser treatment targets and destroys sweat glands on the armpits.
Surgery: A procedure called thoracic sympathectomy is usually the last resort. The procedure involves destroying the nerves in the sweat glands. Surgery is also performed to permanently remove sweat glands. While surgery is effective, it can lead to serious complications like nerve and heart problems. It can also cause excessive sweating in other areas.
How to Live With Hyperhidrosis
Since hyperhidrosis has no known cure, the best thing you can do is find ways of managing the symptoms. The condition can be embarrassing to live with but there are certain measures you can take to improve your quality of life. They include;
- Make lifestyle changes like showering and bathing more often to prevent bad odor.
- Engage with people living with hyperhidrosis to learn how to cope with the condition.
- Find ways of dealing with stress and anxiety as these can worsen hyperhidrosis.
- Wear clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton and silk so that sweating is less noticeable.
- Rehydrate often since excessive sweating can lead to dehydration.
- Is hyperhidrosis curable? There is currently no cure for inherited hyperhidrosis. Treatment options only focus on easing the symptoms and improving your life quality. Secondary hyperhidrosis is treatable by addressing the underlying cause.
- How can one prevent hyperhidrosis? There is no way of preventing focal hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis is preventable though if you address the cause. These include diabetes, thyroid disease, infections, and low blood sugar. Seeking treatment for these conditions will help prevent hyperhidrosis.
- What is the prognosis if diagnosed with hyperhidrosis? Hyperhidrosis is not a life-threatening condition. The only thing you have to deal with is psychological issues like stress. If the cause of your excessive sweating is unknown, you may have to find ways of managing the condition all your life.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!