Shocks and Lesions during Treatment
Iontophoresis is a medical procedure used to treat excessive sweating, by physical therapists to help push medication farther into the body, and for managing scar tissue within the body. The process involves using electrodes to direct a current through a specific area of the body, applying medication to that area only, rather than the body as a whole. It is often used on the hands, feet, and armpits in order to stop excessive sweating by blocking sweat glands.
To use iontophoresis, the patient must sit with their affected body part fully submerged in water. Iontophoretic machines will then deliver electrical currents to that part of the body. For patients who wish to curb excessive sweating, typically no extra medication is added to the water. For reasons that researchers do not yet understand, the electrical current in combination with the minerals in the tap water are enough to block the sweat glands from producing more perspiration.
For patients who are using iontophoresis to help with sports injuries, pain, or muscle spasms, a small amount of medication is added to the water or to one of the electrodes. If the solution has a negative charge, it will be added to the negative electrode, and vice versa. When the device is powered on, the solution will be repelled from its electrode towards the other electrode, using the path of least resistance. This pushes the medication into the body only at the affected area, and then the electrodes are removed from the water. The process shouldn’t feel like anything more than a tingling sensation or a pin prick, although patients often notice dryness in their skin from the electricity.
Some patients have noted receiving shocks and lesions during iontophoresis. These claims are always investigated by the hospital or medical clinic in which the procedure was performed. These happen especially when one of the device’s electrodes are placed directly against the skin of the patient in order to distribute medication into the body. The skin beneath the electrode would redden and blister, like a first degree burn, and the patient might experience a shock when the device is turned off. Doctors recommend that patience who experience any degree of discomfort after an iontophoresis session use a moisturizer or hydrocortisone cream to reduce the skin reaction to the electrolysis. The equipment is also regularly tested to ensure it is working properly and won’t be delivering electrical currents higher than intended.
Iontophoresis as an approved medical procedure can seem a little bit daunting or frightening, but it is a truly effective process. For patients who suffer from excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, they can see relief from their symptoms within three visits. For patients of physical therapists, they can see reduced inflammation and pain almost immediately as the medication takes effect within their body. As with any medical procedure, however, iontophoresis has its risks, including minor shocks to the body or skin lesions from the electrical current. Patients should take care to be informed about all the risks of the procedure before beginning an iontophoresis regimen.