It is necessary to sweat. It cools the body and prevents us from overheating. However, some people sweat more than is necessary or sweat when the body does not need cooling. This is called hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis will sweat even when they are not exerting themselves.
Hyperhidrosis most often occurs on the palms, feet, underarms and head. The remainder of the body will remain dry, while these areas may be dripping or glistening with sweat. This condition can interfere with daily activities, especially with sweating on the hands. Sweating in this area can often make it more difficult to use a computer keyboard or turn a door knob. Hyperhidrosis may also become embarrassing for a person when shaking hands or when underarm sweating soaks clothing, leaving obvious sweat marks. Hyperhidrosis of the feet can also make a person more prone to frequent fungal infections or athlete’s foot.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis, primary focal and secondary. Primary focal hyperhidrosis means that there in not a medical condition causing the hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis means that there is an underlying cause for the excessive sweating. Some examples of underlying causes would be diabetes, obesity, menopause, hyperthyroidism, or a side effect of a medication or supplement. People with secondary hyperhidrosis most often have sweating while sleeping, and people with primary typically don’t sweat while sleeping. Secondary usually causes sweating all over the body, while primary usually only occurs in the underarms, hands, feet or head.
Antiperspirants are usually the first line therapy for primary focal hyperhidrosis and are applied directly to the skin. There are clinical strength antiperspirants that are available over the counter, and there are also prescription-strength antiperspirants. These work by plugging the sweat glands. The body senses the plugged sweat gland, which in turn signals the body to stop producing so much sweat. These may cause irritation or a burning sensation.
Botulinum toxin (botox) injections can also be used to treat hyperhidrosis. Small amounts of the medication are injected into many areas of the underarms, feet or hands, depending on the patient’s problem area. The injection works by temporarily blocking a chemical in the body that stimulates the sweat glands. Results can be seen 4-5 days after treatment and can last for about 4-6 months. When the sweating returns, you can be retreated.