You probably know that sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself, and that people sweat the most under the arms and on the forehead, palms and feet. According to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which a person sweats excessively and unpredictably. People with hyperhidrosis may sweat even when the temperature is cool or when they are at rest.”
What you may not know is that excessive sweating–hyperhidrosis– is a treatable medical condition.
What Causes Hyperhidrosis?
There are two types of hyperhidrosis, generalized and focal. Generalized hyperhidrosis occurs suddenly in people who have not experienced it in the past, and is caused by certain illnesses, medications, obesity or low blood sugar. When the underlying problem is treated the excessive sweating disappears.
With focal hyperhidrosis, the sweating is focused on one part of the body and is usually present from the time of adolescence. The cause of this type of hyperhidrosis is unknown; however, research suggests that it is a genetic condition.
What Treatments are Available for Hyperhidrosis?
There are several “clinical strength” antiperspirants on the market right now that are made for excessive sweating, but these may not work for people with hyperhidrosis. Only a dermatologist can diagnosis severe underarm sweating and you may be asked to complete a self-assessment questionnaire to determine the extent to which the sweating affects your daily activities.
In addition to clinical strength or prescription antiperspirants, hyperhidrosis can also been treated with:
- Alternative therapies including herbal remedies like St. John’s wort, valerian root and sage tablets; acupuncture, hypnosis, and biofeedback. Studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of these treatments.
- Botox is approved to treat symptoms of excessive sweating when topical treatments do not work well enough.
- Iontophoresis is a treatment that sends a small electrical current to the affected area while it is submerged in water. Typically these treatments must be repeated 3-4 times a week.
- Surgery is reserved for the most extreme cases that do not respond to other treatments. One of the most common surgeries for this condition is a procedure in which the surgeon attempts to interrupt the transmission of nerve signals between the spinal column and the sweat glands in the affected area.
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Therapy in Practice (Treatment Options for Hyperhidrosis, Hobart W. Walling and Brian L. Swick), hyperhidrosis has an estimated prevalence of nearly 3% and is associated with significant medical and psychosocial consequences.
When clinical strength antiperspirants don’t work, Botox is the recommended second line treatment. The efficacy of Botox in the treatment of axillary (underarm) hyperhidrosis is well established, with 82–87% reduction in sweating noted post-treatment.
During the treatment, Botox is injected into the affected area to temporarily block chemical signals from the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. The procedure takes about 15 minutes and lasts slightly longer than six months.
More effective than prescription antiperspirants, Botox is safer, less painful and less expensive than the other treatments available. If you’d like more information about the use of Botox for excessive sweating, contact us.