It is estimated that around three percent of Americans experience excessive sweating or what is clinically known as hyperhidrosis. This condition can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life. It can be a cause of great embarrassment, physical discomfort, and a hindrance to social and professional interactions. It may even cause problems in a person’s day to day activities such as holding a steering wheel while driving, holding a pen while writing, and even when shaking hands.
If you suffer from this condition, it would be advisable to have it consulted with your healthcare provider. Left untreated, this condition will cause you distress throughout your life. And since this condition can have numerous causes, your doctor may be able to determine the underlying cause and have it treated accordingly. While treatment may depend on the diagnosis of your healthcare provider, the possible options include the following:
In most initial cases of excessive sweating, the first line treatment would be the most conservative type which would be antiperspirants that are available over-the-counter. These are the types which may be considered as a bit stronger than the typical antiperspirants intended for daily use. These contain a low dose of metal salt, usually aluminum zirconium, and are applied at night. Especially for the milder cases, these over-the-counter antiperspirants may just be what you require to address your problem.
If over-the-counter antiperspirants may not be entirely effective in managing excessive sweating, your doctor may prescribe antiperspirants that may be considered stronger that the nonprescription antiperspirants. The main ingredient for these prescription antiperspirants is chloride hexahydrate. Treatment would start by applying this product two or three nights in a row before bedtime. If an improvement is observed, application should then be maintained at once-a-week frequency.
This type of antiperspirant has been shown to be effective in many cases, especially those experiencing excessive sweating in the underarm. Caution should be observed since this product has been known to irritate the skin. In some instances, these side effects may be prevented by making sure that the skin is dry before application and to let the medication completely dry thereafter. Your doctor may also advise you to limit the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as creams and lotions that contain corticosteroid.
Introduced over 50 years ago, iontophoresis is a treatment for excessive sweating that uses a device that passes ionized water through the skin with the use of direct electricity. The actual process involves putting the area to be treated in the water and allowing a gentle current of electricity to pass through the water. This current may be increased by the technician until the patient experiences a light tingling sensation.
This treatment is done a few times every week for about 10 to 30 minutes per session over a number of weeks. When improvement is realized, maintenance treatment may be carried out at one to three-week intervals, depending on the condition of the patient. This may be applicable to individuals suffering excessive sweating in the underarms, feet, and hands.
Despite being used for a number of years, its exact mechanism is still not clear at this point. It is believed that this treatment works by blocking the sweat duct or the sweat gland, thereby preventing the patient from sweating. Side effects have not been common with iontophoresis and if they do appear, they may come in the form of skin irritation, dryness, and blistering.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe oral medications when antiperspirants may not be practical. This is especially true in cases wherein excessive sweating occurs in areas other than the armpits, such as the hands and feet. These oral medications are known as anticholinergic drugs with examples such as the glycopyrrolate or Robinul as its brand name.
Prescriptions of this oral medication may be limited by the healthcare provider due to the side effects associated with this medication. Common side effects include having a dry mouth and a blurred vision. Since this drug also stops all sweating, this may not be appropriate for athletes who may need to sweat it out as part of their warm-up routine.
Already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as treatment for excessive sweating is the use of Botox-A (botulinum toxin), which has been considered by many as a revolutionary treatment for excessive sweating. Widely known for its cosmetic application, Botox has been found effective in a number of conditions that include headaches, muscle spasms, bladder problems, and the latest which is excessive sweating.
Treatment is done by injecting a small amount from a very fine needle to around 20 to 25 spots in the armpits. These injections will address your sweating problems for a period of six months after which another injection will have to be made. While approval of the FDA covers only the armpits, it has been reported that Botox treatment is also effective for excessive sweating in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Being relatively new, side effects have not yet been fully established although preliminary studies indicate that this mode of treatment is generally safe and effective. What little has been reported are pains encountered when injecting in the hands, which may be dealt with by numbing the area before application. With the approval by the FDA, treatment using Botox has now been covered by medical insurance after showing that other medications were not successful. It is hoped that the FDA will expand the coverage of Botox, to include sweating in the hands and feet.
If all other forms of treatment are not successful, it may be time to have a surgical procedure to address your excessive sweating. This option is often called the last resort and this can be very risky, not to mention a very expensive one too. Advances in technology have made this treatment a lot safer now and unlike other treatment methods, this procedure is only done once and may be performed on an out-patient basis.
Called the thoracic sympathectomy, this procedure aims at interrupting the sympathetic nerves responsible for the sweating by destroying a part of the nerve that connects to the sweat glands in the skin. This is accomplished by inserting an endoscopic instrument in the chest area just below the armpit and cutting a portion of the nerve that sends signals to sweat excessively.
But while this surgical procedure may be effective in eliminating excessive sweating, it has remained controversial due to the possibility of what is termed “compensatory sweating”. This occurs when sweating is experienced in other parts that were previously not exposed to sweating. So while the underarms or hands become dry, the sweating is now “compensated”, so to speak, in the back, chest or legs.