Excessive Sweating: Hyperhidrosis

Image of a woman, eyes closed, sweating, holding a wash cloth to her forhead, blue sky in the background

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessive sweating. Sweat, the body’s primary way to cool down, is produced in hyperhidrosis even when there is no need for it.


Hyperhidrosis has two subtypes:

  • Primary hyperhidrosis generally affects both sides of the body.
  • Secondary hyperhidrosis, or generalized hyperhidrosis, is induced by another condition including but not limited to: diabetes, frostbite, gout, injury, menopause, obesity, overactive thyroid, tumor, and medication.


Diagnosis of hyperhidrosis involves a physical exam and a closer look at the areas of the body that sweat excessively. The doctor may run a sweat test, where coating that is applied to the skin turns purple when the skin becomes wet. The doctor may also order urine or blood tests to isolate the underlying cause of generalized hyperhidrosis, such as an overactive thyroid or low blood sugar.


There are several options to treat hyperhidrosis. Dermatologists usually recommend antiperspirants containing a high level of aluminum chloride, such as Drysol or Xerac AC. Aluminum chloride helps block the sweat glands and the excessive production of sweat. Hyperhidrosis can also be treated by prescription medication, which acts to stop the stimulation of sweat glands; however, be wary of the side effects that the medication can cause such as dry mouth and blurry vision. Consult a doctor regarding this as to avoid any long-term effects.


Other options not as commonly used are Iontophoresis, Botulinum toxin type A, electromagnetic energy, and surgery. Iontophoresis is a procedure that applies low amounts of electricity to either the hands or feet to shut off sweat glands. Botulinum toxin type A, more popularly known as Botox, can be injected into the armpits to block nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. This process works well but can be expensive and painful. Each Botox treatment is effective for 4-8 months. Lastly, surgery is done to remove the sweat glands completely. This is done in a high-risk situation where the patient has axillary hyperhidrosis, or severe armpit swelling. Either a traditional surgical procedure or a minimally invasive one known as suction curettage may be used. Suction curettage removes the sweat glands using quick suction and scaping. The entire procedure is 60-90 minutes. A common consensus from patients who have opted for the surgery report feeling less discomfort; however, there may be scarring or worsened sweating after the procedure.


While treatments can lead to long term alleviation of symptoms, there are personal changes that can be made as well. Most of these habits involve drawing moisture away as to prevent the bacteria and germ growth responsible for sweat odor: implementation of antibacterial soap, drying yourself completely, wearing cotton socks, wearing pads under armpits, or keeping an extra shirt or socks to feel more secure in public. Also, if you notice any sweating occurring to a specific food, avoid eating that food. Lastly, relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can prevent any unease that is contributing to the sweating.


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