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Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis) - Few Tips Help you to Prevent Excessive Sweating
What Is Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)?
Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is a common disorder which produces a lot of unhappiness. An estimated 2-3% of Americans suffer from excessive sweating of the underarms (axillary hyperhidrosis) or of the palms and soles of the feet (palmoplantar hyperhidrosis). Underarm problems tend to start in late adolescence, while palm and sole sweating often begins earlier, around the age 13 (on the average). Untreated, these problems may continue throughout life.
Sweating is embarrassing, it stains clothes, ruins romance, and complicates business and social interactions. Severe cases can have serious practical consequences as well, making it hard for people who suffer from it to hold a pen, grip a car steering wheel, or shake hands.
What Is the Cause of Hyperhidrosis?
Although neurologic, metabolic, and other systemic diseases can sometimes cause hyperhidrosis, most cases occur in people who are otherwise healthy. Heat and emotions may trigger hyperhidrosis in some, but many who suffer from hyperhidrosis sweat nearly all their waking hours, regardless of their mood or the weather.
What is the Treatment for Hyperhidrosis?
Through a systematic evaluation of causes and triggers of hyperhidrosis, followed by a judicious, stepwise approach to treatment, many people with this annoying disorder can achieve good results and improved quality of life.
The approach to treating excessive sweating generally proceeds as follows:
- Over-the-counter antiperspirants -- usually tried first because they are readily available. Antiperspirants containing aluminum chloride (for example, Certain-Dri) may be more effective when other antiperspirants have failed
- Prescription strength antiperspirants -- those containing aluminum chloride hexahydrate
- Iontophoresis -- a device which passes direct electricity through the skin using tap water
- Oral medications -- ones called anticholinergics, which reduce sweating
- Botox (botulinum toxin) -- recently approved in the U.S. by the FDA for treating excessive axillary (underarm) sweating
- Surgery -- cervical sympathectomy, as a last resort
Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate and Excessive Sweating
When regular antiperspirants fail to treat excessive sweating, most doctors start by recommending aluminum chloride hexahydrate (Drysol), a prescription-strength version of aluminum chloride. It is applied just before bedtime seven to 10 nights in a row, then roughly once a week thereafter to maintain improvement. This treatment works reasonably well for many patients whose problem is excessive underarm sweating, but is not satisfactory for most of those with palm and sole sweating.
The main side effect with Drysol is irritation, which can sometimes, but not always, be overcome by reducing the frequency of use or applying anti-inflammatory drugs, such as lotions containing a corticosteroid.
Iontophoresis for Excessive Sweating
Iontophoresis was introduced over 50 years ago as a treatment for excessive sweating. Its exact mechanism of action is still unclear, although it probably works by plugging up the sweat duct. The procedure uses water to conduct an electric current to the skin which combats production of sweat. Current is applied typically for 10-20 minutes per session, initially with two to three sessions per week followed by a maintenance program of treatments at one- to three-week intervals, depending upon the patient's response. Iontophoresis treatments sound potentially painful but, in fact, they are not.
Patients purchase devices for this treatment through a doctor’s prescription. Medical insurers sometimes cover the cost.
Oral Drugs for Excessive Sweating
Oral anticholinergic drugs such as glycopyrrolate (Robinul) are not commonly used for excessive sweating, because in order to work they often produce side effects like dry mouth and blurred vision.
Botox and Excessive Sweating
Botulinum toxin (Botox), a nerve toxin that can temporarily paralyze muscle, is often in the news as a cosmetic treatment for wrinkles. But it has actually been used in many areas of medicine for some time, such as in the treatment of muscle spasms and certain types of headaches. Its latest medical niche is the treatment of excessive underarm sweating.
Fifty (50) units of Botox are injected into roughly 20 spots in each armpit. This may produce approximately six months of relief from sweating. The injections are uncomfortable, but use of a very small injection needle makes them tolerable.
Now that this treatment has received FDA approval for hyperhidrosis, many health insurers are providing coverage for the injections and the Botox itself, which is quite costly.
Currently, the FDA has not approved Botox for sweating of the palms and soles of the feet, though some physicians are administering it as an off-label use, reportedly with success. Palm injections cause more pain, requiring nerve blocks to numb the hands in order to make the injections comfortable.
Surgery for Excessive Sweating
Thoracic sympathectomy is surgical interruption of the sympathetic nerves responsible for sweating. Sympathectomy is an operation intended to destroy part of the nerve supply to the sweat glands in the skin. The surgeon inserts a special endoscopic instrument into the chest between two ribs just below the armpit. The lung is briefly deflated to better visualize and destroy the nerves. Sympathectomy is both effective and risky. Even with newer endoscopic techniques, the complications can include excessive sweating in other parts of the body and lung and nerve problems. As many of these complications are serious and not reversible, this option is rarely used, and then only as a last resort.
Hyperhidrosis at A Glance
- Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is a common disorder.
- Axillary hyperhidrosis is excess sweating of the underarms.
- Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis is excess sweating of the palms and soles.
- Hyperhidrosis usually occurs in people who are otherwise healthy.
- The approach to treating hyperhidrosis generally proceeds from over-the-counter antiperspirants to prescription antiperspirants, iontophoresis, oral anticholinergic medications, Botox, and surgery.
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