Hyperhidrosis Treatment Options – How to Stop Excessive Sweating
This content was updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2020
Excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, can be the result of extreme medical problems as well as lead to embarrassing situations. However, there are proven techniques for assisting with the prevention of excessive sweating.
What Is Excessive Sweating?
If a person sweats more than most other people when it’s hot or they are exerting themselves, that is not usually a sign of trouble. Sweating is a normal reaction when a body is working harder than normal and needs to cool itself down. There are natural variations in how people sweat, just as there are variations in other bodily functions. Some people start sweating more easily than others.
If a person sweats heavily for no reason they may suffer from hyperhidrosis. If a person is sitting down in mild temperatures and not consuming spicy food, but is still sweating profusely, that is not normal, and the person may be experiencing excessive sweating. There are two different types of excessive sweating. Generalized hyperhidrosis and localized, which are both treatable.
The most common cause of extreme sweating is primary focal hyperhidrosis. This localized form of sweating affects up to 3% of the population. It tends to start in one’s childhood. Primary focal hyperhidrosis does not increase the likelihood of illness. Basically, a person just sweats excessively. Primary focal hyperhidrosis has been diagnosed as a medical condition, but it is not a disease. People who have it may be otherwise perfectly healthy.
The symptoms of primary focal hyperhidrosis tend to be specific. It only affects certain parts of the body, such as the underarms, groin, head, face, hands or feet. The symptoms will usually occur on both sides of the body. Asymmetrical sweating occurs if a person notices that sweat is only happening from one side of their body, such as only one armpit.
Why does this excessive sweating occur? Experts aren’t sure, but believe that primary focal hyperhidrosis has roots in minor malfunctions of a person’s nervous system. There is some evidence that it could be genetic. While primary focal hyperhidrosis has not been diagnosed as medically risky, it can cause problems in a person’s life. Many people face embarrassment on a daily basis due to suffering from primary focal hyperhidrosis.
Generalized hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that reaches further than the hands and the feet. This occurs throughout the entire body. Generalized sweating is occurring if a person experiences sweating from all areas of their body, not just from their underarms, groin, hands, head, or feet.
If a person notices that their sweating has suddenly gotten worse within a short period of time, this could be an indication that they are suffering from secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. This is a more serious medical condition than primary focal hyperhidrosis. It is known as secondary because it is caused by an underlying health condition. There are many possible causes that include a number of different medical diseases and medications.
One easy-to-spot sign of secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is heavy sweating during a person’s sleep, a condition known as night sweats. If a person notices that they often wake up in a cold sweat or notice that their bedding is damp in the morning, they may be suffering from secondary generalized hyperhidrosis.
Sometimes, a person develops excessive sweating in the later years of their life, particularly during middle age and beyond. This is known as late onset secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. The more common primary focal hyperhidrosis is usually found in adults and teenagers. Some people experience symptoms of secondary generalized hyperhidrosis after undergoing medication changes, such as beginning to take a new drug.
Even if a person does not have those symptoms, if excessive sweating is bothering them or interfering with their daily functions, they should talk to a doctor. Anyone going to see a doctor for this reason should remember to bring along a list of all the drugs they are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. The doctor may want to check the list of medications and run some tests to determine the cause of the sweating. There are several ways to treat excessive sweating.
First Step for Treating Heavy Sweating: Antiperspirants
An easy way to battle excessive sweating is by using an antiperspirant. Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts which help to stop sweating. When a person rolls an antiperspirant onto their skin it creates a blockage that keeps perspiration from activating.
A person can purchase an antiperspirant over the counter, or a doctor can prescribe one. Over-the-counter antiperspirants may have fewer side effects than prescription antiperspirants. People who find that over-the-counter antiperspirants do not work should see a dermatologist for a prescription. Many antiperspirants contain a deodorant. A deodorant is a substance that will not stop a person from sweating, but will control the odor caused by sweating. Antiperspirants can be applied to other areas where a person sweats, for instance the hands and feet. Some may even be applied to the hairline.
Many people roll or spray on an antiperspirant/deodorant in the morning and forget about it. This is a mistake for hyperhidrosis sufferers, as application at night before going to bed can help people stay drier.
Second Step for Treating Heavy Sweating: At Home Treatments
While trying out various antiperspirants, or other treatments recommended by a physician, a person can also incorporate at-home solutions to reduce sweating. Sufferers from hyperhidrosis often try not to wear heavy clothes, such as sweaters that tend to trap sweat inside the body and clothing. Instead, they wear light and breathable fabrics. Cotton and silk are ideal materials for this. People who sweat excessively can bring along an extra shirt when exercising or venturing outdoors in the heat.
Another way to prevent excessive sweat is to shower or bathe every day using an antibacterial soap to control the bacteria that can inhabit sweaty skin and cause odors. Anyone who does this should be sure to dry off completely before applying antiperspirant. Using shoe inserts, underarm liners and special designed socks for sweaty feet to absorb sweat can also help. This helps to absorb sweat, stop the sweat from ruining clothes, and prevent odors.
Third Step for Treating Heavy Sweating: Four Medical Treatment Options
If antiperspirants are not working, most dermatologists will probably suggest one of the following treatment methods:
Iontophoresis is very helpful when treating heaving sweating. During this treatment, the patient sits with their hands, feet, or both in a shallow tray of water for about 20 to 30 minutes, while a low electrical current travels through the water. No one knows exactly why this treatment works, but doctors believe it blocks sweat from getting to the skin’s surface.
This kind of treatment has to be repeated at least a few times a week, but after several times a person may stop sweating. Once someone learns how to do iontophoresis, they can buy a machine to use at home. Some people only require a couple of treatments a month for maintenance. Although iontophoresis is generally safe, because it uses an electrical current, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant and people who have pacemakers or metal implants, cardiac conditions, or epilepsy.
Another treatment option for excessive sweating is injections of Botox. This FDA-approved treatment for excessive sweating of a person’s underarms has been proven effective. Some doctors may also use it on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Botox prevents the release of a chemical that activates the sweat glands. A patient may need to have more than one Botox injection, but the result is up to one year of being sweat-free.
A third treatment option is using an anticholinergic. Many doctors will prescribe this treatment for patients who have not been helped by iontophoresis and Botox. An orally-ingested anticholinergic can interfere with the operation of sweat glands, but may have side effects such as blurred vision, urinary problems, and heart palpitations.
The fourth treatment option is surgery. Plastic surgeons can perform procedures that prevent excessive sweating. However, surgery is only recommended for people with severe sweating that hasn’t responded to other treatments. During surgery, the doctor may scrape, suction, or cut out the sweat glands.
Some doctors use a second type of surgery called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), in which a surgeon cuts the nerves in the armpit that activate the sweat glands. This procedure is very effective, but should be used only as a last resort on people who have tried every other treatment. ETS can’t be reversed, and it can leave scars. One major side effect of ETS is compensatory sweating, which is when the body stops sweating in one area, but starts sweating in another, such as the face or chest, to compensate.
Excessive Sweating and Medical Problems
At the very least, excessive sweating is inconvenient and embarrassing. In some cases heavy sweating may be a sign of a medical problem. Sweating may be a symptom of an infection, diabetes, or thyroid problems. Excessive sweating is also more common in people who are out of shape or overweight. If a person is worried about how much they sweat, it may be a good idea to go to a doctor to ensure that the sweating is not caused by an underlying medical problem.