Understanding Hyperhidrosis

Hot weather can be the perfect backdrop for homemade ice cream or a trip to the beach. For those living with hyperhidrosis, however, the dog days of summer are a mixed blessing at best and at worst, a serious challenge to comfort, well-being, and self-image.

 

If you or someone you love suffers from hyperhidrosis, understanding more about the condition including the right treatments can help you live the full, rewarding life you deserve.

What is Hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, occurs when the nerves responsible for sweat production become overactive. Sweating is your body’s natural process to prevent overheating; we sweat more during warmer weather or when we’re physically active so that the body can bring its core temperature back to normal. People who suffer from hyperhidrosis, however, may find themselves sweating heavily all the time, most commonly on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and under the arms.

Hyperhidrosis affects about 2-3% of the global population. Aside from being uncomfortable, it can cause physical side effects people who sweat excessively have a higher risk of skin infections, rashes, or other conditions. More importantly, though, hyperhidrosis has a drastic impact on lifestyle and well-being. Constant sweating can make it difficult to grip a steering wheel, give a handshake, handle important papers, or even buy clothes. It also disrupts nearly every aspect of normal life, from career choices to social activities and relationships. What’s more, hyperhidrosis often intensifies under anxiety or stress, and can start at a young age in some cases, during the early teen years.

How is hyperhidrosis treated?

Because excessive sweating can be a side effect of other medical conditions like hypothyroid or low blood sugar, your doctor may order additional tests to rule out other causes. Once hyperhidrosis is confirmed, there are several treatment options available.

  • Prescription-strength antiperspirants may help keep sweating under control. These usually contain a stronger form of the active ingredient aluminum chloride than over-the-counter brands, and can be used on hands and feet as well as underarms.
  • Botox® injections can limit underarm sweating by blocking the nerves that trigger sweat glands. Botox treatments for hyperhidrosis are temporary, however; they’ll need to be repeated every 4 to 6 months.
  • Certain medications can also prevent stimulation of the sweat glands. Most of these are designed to target specific kinds of hyperhidrosis, though, and each through a different mechanism so be sure to talk to your doctor about the safest prescriptions for you.
  • If other treatments have failed, surgery can provide a long-term solution to hyperhidrosis. Overactive sweat glands under the arms can be removed through liposuction or curettage (scraping), permanently preventing sweat production in that area. Surgery for hyperhidrosis is localized (directly targeting the area producing sweat) and can be performed in an office setting under local anesthetic.

If you haven’t found successful treatment for excessive sweating and would like to explore surgical options, come set up a consultation with Dr. Branch at Bangor Plastic and Hand Surgery provides state-of- the-art services in a facility setting. We’re happy to answer your questions and help determine the best and safest options!