Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Let's Talk Hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating Disorder, Types, Causes, Treatment.

Excessive sweating disorder graphic
Image Credit: efamilyportal.com


Have you always wondered why you sweat excessively? Sudden excessive sweating that is far from what you would consider 'normal' is as a result of a disorder called Hyperhidrosis. The primary aim of sweating is to regulate the temperature of the body as sweat causes cooling on evaporation from the surface of the skin. However, some people seem to sweat in excess of that required for regulation of the body's temperature. Hyperhidrosis is a disorder characterized by excessive sweating, and as a result,  individuals with this disorder suffer from excessive perspiration which negatively affects the quality of life they live.


Hyperhidrosis has great effects on the quality of life of people from a psychological, emotional, and social perspective. Hyperhidrotic symptoms include excessive sweating on the Palms and Feet (Palmoplanter hyperhidrosis), Armpits, Forehead or Face (Craniofacial hyperhidrosis) and in the groin area while some people claim to only suffer from excessive sweating at night. Many of us at some point in our lives have come across people who suffer from this condition (or we do ourselves) and we often ask "Why sweat excessively? How can I Stop the Excessive Sweating? Why does the body waste all that precious fluid?" The answer my friend is now right at your finger-tips. The cause of  'primary hyperhidrosis' is relatively unknown, although some physicians claim it is caused by over-activity of the Sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety or excitement can only make matters worse for many sufferers and may trigger what i like to call 'Sweat Mode' even when they are in well air-conditioned environments. 


A common complaint of patients is they get nervous because they sweat, then sweat more because they are nervous. Other factors can play a role, including certain foods and drinks, nicotine, caffeine, and smells.

Excessive sweating disorder graphic
Image Credit: hyperhidrosisuk.org

I sweat a lot generally, but it's more severe on my forehead, palms and feet. From experience, common triggers may include a sudden change in surrounding temperature, anxiety, and fear (especially during exams). When excessive sweating affects the hands, feet, and armpits, it is called primary or focal hyperhidrosis. In most cases, no cause can be found. It seems to run in families and can be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.  If excessive sweating occurs as a result of another medical condition, it is called secondary hyperhidrosis

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The sweating may be all over the body or it may be in one area. Medical conditions that cause secondary hyperhidrosis include:

  • Acromegaly.
  • Anxiety conditions.
  • Cancer.
  • Carcinoid syndrome.
  • Certain medications and substances of abuse.
  • Glucose control disorders.
  • Heart disease.
  • Hyperthyroidism.
  • Lung disease.
  • Menopause.
  • Parkinson disease.
  • Pheochromocytoma.
  • Spinal cord injury.
  • Stroke.
  • Tuberculosis or other infections..

People I've come across with this disorder however suffer from Primary hyperhidrosis with no identifiable cause. Excessive sweating in hyperhidrosis occuring on more than one or all the parts of the body is most consistent with primary hyperhidrosis. 

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Excessive sweating affecting only one side of the body is more suggestive of secondary hyperhidrosis and further investigation by a Doctor is required.

Excessive sweating disorder graphic
Image Credit: drleah.co.uk

According to medlineplus.gov, the following methods can be used to effectively test for the condition:
  • Starch-iodine test:  An iodine solution is applied to the sweaty area. After it dries, starch is sprinkled on the area. The starch-iodine combination turns a dark blue color wherever there is excess sweat.
  • Paper test: Special paper is placed on the affected area to absorb the sweat, and then weighed. The heavier it weights, the more sweat has accumulated.
  • Blood tests: These may be ordered if thyroid problems or other medical conditions are suspected.

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Important information You may be asked about your sweating, may include details such as:
  • Location: Does it occur on your face, palms, or armpits, or all over the body?
  • Time pattern: Does it occur at night? Did it begin suddenly? How long have you noticed the symptoms?
  • Triggers: Does the sweating occur when you are reminded of something that upsets you (such as a traumatic event)?  Does the sweating occur when you see a really cute girl and get so nervous?
  • Other symptoms: Weight loss, pounding heartbeat, cold or clammy hands, fever, lack of appetite.

Hyperhidrosis Treatment and remedy

Now if you suffer from this condition, it's not the end of the world. Science is constantly evolving and there are now new techniques to put and end to excessive sweating disorders. Below are some of the available treatment and Hyperhidrosis remedies.

  • Antiperspirants: Excessive sweating may be controlled with strong antiperspirants, which somehow blocks the sweat ducts. Products containing 10% to 20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate are the first line of treatment for underarm sweating. Some people may be prescribed a product containing a higher dose of aluminum chloride, which is applied nightly onto the affected areas. Antiperspirants can cause skin irritation, and large doses of aluminum chloride can damage clothing. Note that Deodorants do not prevent sweating, but are helpful in reducing body odor. So next time you're out to buy an antiperspirant, be sure to check it's content or see your Doctor to prescribe a good brand depending on the severity of your condition.
  • Medicines: Medicines may prevent stimulation of the sweat glands. These are prescribed for certain types of hyperhidrosis such as excessive sweating of the face. Medicines have side effects and are not right for everyone. So don't prescribe drugs for yourself, see your Doctor first.
  • Iontophoresis: This procedure uses electricity to temporarily turn off the sweat gland. It is most effective for sweating of the hands and feet. The hands or feet are placed into water, and then a gentle current of electricity is passed through it. The electricity is gradually increased until the person feels a light tingling sensation. The therapy lasts about 10 to 20 minutes and requires several sessions. Side effects, although rare, include skin cracking and blisters.
  • Botox: Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) is used to treat severe underarm sweating. This condition is called primary axillary hyperhidrosis. Botulinum toxin injected into the underarm temporarily block the nerves that stimulate sweating. Side effects include injection-site pain and flu-like symptoms. Botox used for sweating of the palms can cause mild, but temporary weakness and intense pain. Most celebrities use Botox to control their underarm sweating and it works for them, but if you hate needles, i'll advice you stick to Antiperspirants.
  • Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS): In severe cases, a minimally-invasive surgical procedure called sympathectomy may be recommended when other treatments do not work. The procedure cuts a nerve, turning off the signal that tells the body to sweat excessively. It is usually done on people whose palms sweat much more heavily than normal. It may also be used to treat extreme sweating of the face.. ETS does not work as well for those with excessive armpit sweating.
  • Underarm surgery: This is surgery to remove the sweat glands in the armpits. Methods used include laser, curettage (scraping), excision (cutting), or liposuction. These procedures are done using local anesthesia.

    Iontophoresis Excessive sweating Disorder
    Iontophoresis- Image Credit: westcoastvascular.com.au

    Botox injections Image Credit: thelookyoudeserve.co.uk


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    I also suffer from this condition and the only treatment method I have tried is the use of Antiperspirants and take it from me, they work wonders for excessive underarm sweating. Well, you can't use those on your face so the best advice anyone can give is to observe proper body maintenance. You know your body better than anyone. You probably should be able to identify your own triggers. Take a note and a pen, write down your possible triggers and plan a possible way to avoid them. I avoid walking too fast or running to Lecture venues, always use good quality Antiperspirants before leaving home, drink lots and lots of water to replenish body reserves, I always hold a handkerchief when I leave home and avoid extremely hot environments.

    My final advice for you to control anxiety-triggered excessive sweating is this; when everything else fails and you start sweating profusely, you start feeling very uncomfortable with your own skin and anxious, you think about people staring at you, you notice your clothes are getting soaked by the second, you feel embarrassed and sweat more and more just by thinking about all this.Why make matters worse for yourself? Take deep breaths, try to take your mind off it, ignore whoever is staring, wipe the sweat of your face, swirl your handkerchief to generate 'air currents' to increase evaporation of sweat but don't do it too forcefully or risk worsening the situation. Do all these and you should be fine.
    Thanks for reading, endeavor to share this with your friends and please do share your 'excessive sweating disorder' experiences in the comment box below, I will really love to hear from you.
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