What is it?
Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by excessive, abnormal perspiration of the body. It most commonly affects the palms of hands, bottoms of feet, armpits, head and face. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, this condition affects approximately three percent of the world population from reported cases. Serious cases of hyperhidrosis can interfere with everyday activities and cause social discomforts. Fortunately, it is a condition can be treated.
Types and Causes
There are two types of hyperhidrosis. The first type, known as primary focal hyperhidrosis, describes excessive sweating caused by emotional stimuli and not from another medical condition. Usually, primary hyperhidrosis happens on specific, focused areas of the body, including the palms of hands, bottoms of feet, armpits, head and face, and are usually symmetric. One example can include excessive sweaty, cold and clammy hands. Causes for primary hyperhidrosis may include:
- Overactive sympathetic nervous system
- Foods or drugs that may affect the nervous system (such as caffeine, drugs, nicotine, etc.)
- Nervousness or excitement
Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, are caused by another already-present medical condition, or as a side effect of other forms of medication. The affected locations are not specific, and are usually larger areas of the body, such as the torso or the legs. Individuals who have secondary hyperhidrosis also experience them more often during times of sleeping. Most secondary hyperhidrosis are results of endocrine or nervous system-related diseases, which include but are not limited to:
- Cardiac shock
- Drug addictions
- Congenital autonomic dysfunction
- Nail-patella syndrome
Be sure to see a physician for the correct diagnosis and treatment methods for hyperhidrosis. He or she can also help identify if the form of hyperhidrosis is a side effect of another medication instead of a condition or disease.
There are several options to treat hyperhidrosis at the discretion of your physician as well as the seriousness of the condition.
There are several forms of over the counter or prescription antiperspirants that can be used as topical treatment for hyperhidrosis. Topical forms may come in gels, creams, sprays, or solid roll-ons applied over the skin of the affected area. Since it is a more cost-effective option with minimal invasiveness, doctors often use topical medication as the first form of treatment to try. The antiperspirant, when applied to the skin, penetrates to just below the surface of the skin and form "plugs" that help reduce the flow of sweat. These plugs are temporary, and can be washed away over time. The active ingredients in this medication are usually metallic salts or aluminum chloride hexahydrate, and are commonly found in over the counter deodorants. Be sure to look for deodorants specifically labeled as antiperspirant since not all deodorants can prevent excessive sweating. If over the counter medication does not work, the doctor may prescribe clinical strength antiperspirants.
If topical medications do not relieve excessive sweating, treatment with mild electrical currents may be the next less-invasive procedure to treat hyperhidrosis. This procedure, also known as iontophoresis, has been shown to have an 83 percent of success rate according to studies done by the American Academy of Dermatology. The process of iontophoresis involves using a mineral solution as a conducting medium for mild electrical currents through the skin's surface. While it does not necessarily eliminate the problem of excessive sweating for good, it is effective at reducing the rate of perspiration temporarily and may need periodical "maintenance." This method works very well for hyperhidrosis of the palms and bottoms of the feet.
Botulinum Toxin Type A Injections
Interestingly, the toxin commonly used to relax facial wrinkles has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as treatment for hyperhidrosis. Localized injections of Botulinum Toxin Type A (commercially known as Botox) have been deemed safe and effective when used on the armpits, face, palms and bottoms of feet. Although known as a "toxin," Botox is a purified protein that alleviates excess sweating by temporarily blocking chemicals that activates sweat glands at the injection site. Botox injections are minimally invasive, can be done in a doctor's office, and have relatively little recovery time.
When the other types of treatment fail to produce results, the doctor may consider surgery as an option. The surgery can be performed locally at the point of sweating, and sweat glands will be removed during the process through scraping, liposuction or excision. Another form of surgery, known as endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), involves the doctor cutting or destroying the nerve path that turns on the sweat glands. Hence, the sweat glands will be "turned off" permanently. However, there are many risks associated with surgical treatment of hyperhidrosis, so be sure to thoroughly explore other treatment options first before going under the knife.