What is Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis is the medical name given to excessive sweating. Sweating is essential to protect us from overheating, but excess sweating can interfere with our daily lives, be inconvenient and be embarrassing or cosmetically unacceptable.
There are two main types of sweat glands in the body – eccrine glands (found most on the palms, soles, face and armpits) , which produce an odourless fluid and apocrine glands (found most in the armpit and genital regions) and can give rise to body odour when the fluid interacts with bacteria on the skin surface. Hyperhidrosis tends to occur in the body areas with the highest concentration of eccrine sweat glands (palms, soles and armpits), but can affect any part of the body.
Usually hyperhidrosis occurs in people who are otherwise medically fit, but sometimes it can be linked to an underlying medical condition. Blood tests may be taken to rule out underlying conditions such as thyroid disorders and diabetes.
Treatments at The Skin Hospital
There are no cures for hyperhidrosis, but there are a number of different treatment options, which may help to control the excessive sweating. These include:
- Antiperspirants: these often contain the ingredient aluminium chloride hexahydrate and can also be used on parts of the body other than the armpits such as the hands and feet.
- Iontophoresis: this uses electricity to treat the sweat glands, which for practical reasons is usually used to treat the palms and soles. The patient places their hands or feet into a solution which has an electric current passed through it. Water or glycopyrrolate can be used in the solution.
- Anticholinergic tablets (glycopyrrolate): can help to reduce the excess sweating, but may also give rise to side-effects such as a dry mouth.
- Botulinum toxin (Botox): can be particularly useful for treatment of the under-arms. This involves multiple injections of botox under the skin, which can be uncomfortable and needs to be repeated (the treatment can last for months). This treatment has become more affordable because of a new Medicare rebate.
- As a last resort, a sympathectomy can be performed. This surgery cuts the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. If, after discussing the risks and benefits of the procedure, this is thought to be the most appropriate treatment option, referral to a specialist surgeon can be made.
Links to trusted sites containing further information about hyperhidrosis:
Patient support groups, which may be helpful for patients and their families:
Authors: Dr Charlotte Thomas & Dr Sarvjit Sohal
Specialists available at The Skin Hospital with a special interest in hyperhidrosis: