I Have Hyperhidrosis. What Do I Do?
There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit sweaty. In fact, perspiration is important, helping our bodies cool down when things get hot. However, few of us enjoy the feeling of sweating, especially when it happens in circumstances that otherwise wouldn’t call for it. If you sweat more than normal, you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis. And while hyperhidrosis isn’t inherently dangerous, it can take a major toll on your self-esteem and lifestyle – worse yet, it can also point to a more serious underlying condition. Here’s what you can do if you suffer from hyperhidrosis.
What Is Hyperhidrosis?
Simply put, hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating unrelated to high temperatures or strenuous exercise. In most cases, hyperhidrosis primarily affects the face, hands, feet, and underarms, and it usually occurs symmetrically (i.e., affecting both sides of the body at once). Primary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that occurs without a known underlying medical cause. As for what causes primary hyperhidrosis, there seems to be a hereditary component at play. Secondary hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, is triggered by some medical condition or medication (including opioid withdrawal). These secondary hyperhidrosis causes include thyroid issues, infection, diabetes, hot flashes, nervous system disorders, certain forms of cancer, heart disease, and more.
How to Treat Hyperhidrosis
So, can you fix hyperhidrosis, whether primary or secondary in nature? While there’s no cure for excessive sweating as of yet, there are many ways to mitigate hyperhidrosis symptoms. The first step to treating hyperhidrosis is determining what, if any, underlying issue is triggering excessive sweating. In many cases, treating this root problem will reduce sweating. As for primary hyperhidrosis, treatment is aimed at controlling excessive sweating directly. Treatments can be broken down into three categories: medications, therapies/surgeries, and lifestyle changes.
Medications for Controlling Hyperhidrosis Symptoms
Over-the-counter antiperspirants can work well for those with normal levels of sweating, but those who sweat excessively may require a prescription-strength antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride. Prescription-strength creams containing glycopyrrolate are specifically aimed at excessive sweating located on the face and head. Your doctor may also prescribe a nerve-blocking medication (taken orally) to prevent specific sweat glands from activating. Some antidepressants have also been shown to reduce excessive sweating. Lastly, injections of botulinum toxin (Botox and others) can temporarily paralyze sweat-inducing nerves for about 6-12 months.
All of the medications mentioned here come with potential side effects and risks, so it’s important to go over each one you’re considering with your doctor or dermatologist.
Therapies and Surgeries
If medications aren’t working for you or you’re not a good candidate for the treatments mentioned above, you might consider therapies and surgical options to help control excessive sweating. Iontophoresis is one such therapy that uses mild electrical currents through water to de-activate targeted sweat glands for a time – several treatments are required to maintain results, but they can be administered at home once you have the right equipment. Heat therapy, such as miraDry®, is another option for treating hyperhidrosis. This FDA-cleared treatment eliminates sweat and odor glands in underarms via the application of targeted thermal energy. In some cases, miraDry offers permanent results.
Patients with severe uncontrollable sweating might seek a surgical approach to their problem via sweat gland removal or nerve surgery. The former operation is minimally invasive, using suction curettage to remove overactive sweat glands. As for nerve surgery (also called sympathectomy), the surgeon must access the spine to cut, burn, or clamp the nerves that trigger excessive sweating – this is a more extreme measure and isn’t usually necessary or effective at treating isolated sweating of the head or neck.
There are also a number of ways to minimize excessive sweating in your daily life through over-the-counter products (e.g., antiperspirants, astringents, etc.) and simple habits. Keeping your skin clean with regular baths or showers will keep bacteria and dirt at bay – just make sure to pat yourself completely dry afterwards. Wearing clothes composed of light, natural materials can reduce sweating, too. It’s also important to change your socks throughout the day, if possible, especially if your feet get particularly sweaty. You may want to go barefoot whenever possible. Lastly, don’t sweat the small stuff – engaging in mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga, and biofeedback can help you reduce your stress levels, in turn controlling your body’s sweaty response.
Hyperhidrosis can be difficult to live with. Fortunately, you don’t have to let excessive sweating control your life. Instead, let the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners help you gain control over your excessive sweating. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.