The condition that results in excessive sweating in the absence of any trigger is called hyperhidrosis. Learn about its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Hyperhidrosis is when a person sweats excessively, irrespective of the climate or physical exertion. The person can sweat when the weather is cold or without any trigger, or sometimes due to menopause or thyroid problems. Such people sweat so much that their clothes might get soaked and sweat starts dripping from their hands and feet. This can cause embarrassment and social anxiety and hinders in normal day to day activities. For a few individuals, the symptoms are so severe that it makes them anxious. It affects the patient’s career choices, activities, relationships, self-esteem, and emotional health.
Treatment is usually done with strong antiperspirants, and if that does not help, the doctor might suggest various medications or therapies. In extreme cases, the person might need surgery to get the sweat glands removed or to cut the nerves that are responsible for excessive sweating.
Hyperhidrosis disorder is a condition that results in excessive sweating. Most people do not consult a doctor for excess sweating as they thing it is not a condition that can be treated.
Sweating caused due to hyperhidrosis occurs mostly in the hands, feet, groin, and armpits, as these parts contain the most concentration of sweat glands. The types are:
Focal hyperhidrosis - This is when excessive sweating is localized in a particular body part. For example, sweating in the palms and soles (palmoplantar hyperhidrosis).
Generalized hyperhidrosis - This is the type where the entire body is affected.
This condition can be present at birth, or it can develop later on. Most people start experiencing the symptoms during their teenage. This condition can also be classified based on the cause:
Primary idiopathic hyperhidrosis - the cause is unknown. Most of the cases are of this type.
Secondary hyperhidrosis - sweating is due to an underlying health condition like obesity, menopause, gout, mercury poisoning, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, etc.
The signs of hyperhidrosis include:
Wet and clammy palms (underside of the hand).
Wet and clammy soles (underside of the feet).
Wet and soaked clothing.
The person might also experience the following symptoms:
Fungal and bacterial infections.
Avoid any form of physical contact.
Constant fear of stained clothing.
Depression due to social withdrawal.
Become extremely self-conscious.
Usually, get a job that requires working from home.
Keep changing clothes and try to deal with all the sweating, that is by keeping napkins under the arms and wearing dark clothes.
Constantly worry about body odor.
Depending on the type, the causes of hyperhidrosis are:
Primary Hyperhidrosis - It was believed that primary hyperhidrosis was due to the person’s emotional state. Stress, anxiety, etc., were believed to trigger this. But, recent studies showed that people with this type of hyperhidrosis are anxious and stressed because of excessive sweating and not the other way round. It also showed that genetics plays a role and that this condition could be inherited.
Here, the nervous system triggers the sweat glands and makes them overactive, and make them secrete sweat even without the rise in body temperature. The condition worsens with stress and nervousness.
Secondary Hyperhidrosis -
Injury to the spinal cord.
Infections, such as HIV and malaria.
Medications, such as antidepressants and antihypertensives.
Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).
Alcohol and drug abuse.
Visit a doctor if you feel that you sweat a lot without any reason. On your visit, the doctor will ask you about the symptoms, your medical history, and some questions to understand what triggers such sweating episodes. If needed, the doctor will then suggest you go for further testing:
Blood and urine tests - to rule out all other medical conditions that can result in similar symptoms, such as hyperthyroidism.
Thermoregulatory sweat test - Here, a moisture-sensitive powder is applied to your skin, and when you sweat, the color of the powder changes.
People’s palms and soles, who do not have hyperhidrosis, do not sweat when exposed to heat. But hyperhidrosis patients do. Other tests, such as the iodine-starch test and skin conductance test are also used.
The treatment options include:
1) Home Remedies:
Try using antiperspirants. They contain aluminum-based compounds, which in blocking sweat pore.
Apply over-the-counter astringents that contain Tannic acid on the affected areas.
Take showers often and pat dry yourself properly.
Wear loose-fitted and cotton clothes or fabrics that absorb moisture.
Apply powder to your feet before wearing socks.
Slip out of your shoes and socks whenever you can.
Wearing leather socks and shoes prevent sweaty feet, as they have good air circulation. For athletes and people that are active, moisture-wicking socks will be helpful.
Perform yoga, meditation, and other relaxation methods.
Prescription-strength antiperspirant - In severe cases, the doctor will prescribe antiperspirants that contain Aluminum chloride. Before the patient goes to bed, this has to be applied to the affected skin.
Medications to block nerves - The doctor will prescribe oral medications to block the chemical that is needed for nerves to communicate with each other. This helps in reducing sweat production in a few patients.
Glycopyrrolate cream - This is prescribed when the face and head are affected by hyperhidrosis.
Botox injections - Botulinum toxin injections help in temporarily blocking the nerves that cause sweating. The effects on the injection last for 6 to 12 months, after which the injection has to be repeated.
Antidepressants - Some drugs used to treat depression are also used sometimes to reduce sweating.
3) Other Procedures and Surgery:
Microwave therapy - Here, a device is used to destroy sweat glands with the help of microwave energy.
Sweat gland removal - Surgically removing the sweat glands in the part where you have severe sweating will help. A technique called suction curettage, which is a minimally invasive technique, is used.
Sympathectomy - In this procedure, the doctor cuts or burns the nerves that are responsible for sweating in the hands. It is not an option for head and neck sweating.
Sympathectomy - It is a variation of sympathectomy. Here, the nerve signals are interrupted without removing the nerves.
For more information on hyperhidrosis, consult a doctor online now.
Last reviewed at:
07 Apr 2020 - 5 min read
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