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Hyperhidrosis

While it is normal to sweat, excessive sweating can cause discomfort and embarrassment.

When sweating is not associated with exercise or heat, it is called hyperhidrosis. While frustrating, the condition is treatable.

So how do I know if I have hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis Is Not Harmful, But It Can Be Uncomfortable and Distressing

Interference with Daily Activities

If sweating affects your ability to perform normal activities, such as turn a doorknob or walk comfortably, you may have hyperhidrosis.

Noticeable Sweating

Typically, patients with hyperhidrosis visibly sweat even when they are not exerting themselves. Visible sweating may appear as sweat-soaked clothing or in beads of sweat on the forehead or other parts of the face.

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Infections or Changes in Skin Appearance

Hyperhidrosis can often trigger skin problems such as bacteria or fungal infection. Excessive sweating can also cause skin to become soft and white or even peel in certain areas.

Am I at a high risk for hyperhidrosis?

Family History Raises Your Chances for Excessive Sweating

Many patients with hyperhidrosis have a close family member who also have the condition. In addition, a variety of health conditions can increase your chance of developing the condition, including:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Alcoholism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes

But why am I sweating so much?

The Cause of Hyperhidrosis Depends on the Type

Sweating is an automatic reaction triggered when your body temperature rises. Your nervous system sends signals to your sweat glands to help you cool down. There are typically two types of interference with this process:

Primary Hyperhidrosis

The most common form of excessive sweating, primary hyperhidrosis occurs when the sweat glands produce sweat even when they haven't been triggered. This condition has no known medical cause, though it may have a genetic component.

Secondary Hyperhidrosis

With secondary hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating is caused by a medical condition or medication and can affect your entire body. A variety of health issues can lead to hyperhidrosis, including infections, gout, and menopause.

Is there anything I can do to prevent excessive sweating?

"Many people who excessively sweat do not realize that they have a treatable medical condition... If you think you might be sweating too much, ask a board-certified dermatologist if it's normal. Dermatologists are one of the few doctors trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hyperhidrosis and can tell you what type of hyperhidrosis you have and the best ways to treat it."

Jenny Eileen Murase, MD, FAAD

While There Is No Way to Prevent Hyperhidrosis, You Can Manage the Condition

Choose the Right Product

Switching to an antiperspirant can help limit visible sweating. However, while deodorants limit the smell of sweat, they do not actually stop you from perspiring.

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothes

Certain materials are more breathable than others. Fabrics with looser weaves, such as linens, are cooler than those with tight weaves, like silk.

Avoid Triggers

Certain activities or foods can trigger sweating or make your sweat smell worse. Avoiding spicy or strong-smelling foods can help you manage these symptoms.

How can I find out if I have hyperhidrosis?

A Dermatologist Can Diagnose Excessive Sweating

During your appointment, the dermatologist will ask about your symptoms and medical history. In addition to a physical exam, they may also perform a sweat test. During this noninvasive exam, they will coat the skin with a powder that turns purple wherever the skin is wet. This can determine the extent and severity of any sweating. If necessary, they may also conduct blood or urine tests to diagnosis underlying causes.

Doctor applies a coat of powder to a patient's skin

While not always necessary, a sweat test can pinpoint areas of perspiration.

So is there a way to stop the sweating?

The Best Treatment for You Depends on the Cause of Sweating

Antiperspirants

Typically, the first treatment dermatologists recommend for hyperhidrosis is an antiperspirant. This treatment works by blocking the sweat glands. If over-the-counter options have proven ineffective, your doctor may recommend a prescription antiperspirant

Iontophoresis

Sometimes referred to as "the no-sweat machine," iontophoresis uses an electric current to ionize water. Patient submerge their hands and feet into water and the painless current relieves excessive sweating.

Botox Injections

Botox can temporarily block the nerves which cause sweating. Typically, the effects of this treatment last between six and 12 months.

Medication

Your dermatologist may prescribe medication to temporarily prevent sweating such as anticholinergic drugs. These inhibit the nerve impulses that trigger sweating and take effect within two weeks.

Surgery

In severe cases, a dermatologist may recommend surgery. For localized sweating, sweat gland removal can provide relief. Another common surgery recommended for hyperhidrosis is a sympathectomy, which prevents certain nerves from sending signals.

I think I have hyperhidrosis. What should I do?

Talk to a Dermatologist

Excessive sweating can affect every aspect of your life and relationships. Contact a dermatologist today to find out if you have hyperhidrosis and what you can do to improve your quality of life.

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