Remedies for Hyperhidrosis
Not many of Americans have been there. A handshake upon walking into a job interview that you are dreading because you know your palms will be sweaty.
Or you find the perfect dress to wear on your night out on the town, but you know you can’t purchase it because it will show sweat stains. Maybe you’ve been walking a long distance to your car on a hot day only to have your flip-flop slide off because your feet are soaking wet.
As a child you constantly found your homework ripping from the moisture. You don’t talk to your friends and family about it because you find it embarrassing, or even gross.
Instead you furiously wipe your hands before going into that interview; you wear black quite often because it is the one color that won’t show sweat; and you find yourself wearing boots in the summer because you know that others won’t be able to see that your feet are dripping with sweat.
Only approximately 2% to 3% of the world’s population is affected by this condition, and out of those few people only 40% attempt to remedy the situation and seek treatment. What the other 60% fail to realize is that they are not alone, and a medical condition is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Living with hyperhidrosis, more commonly known as excessive sweating, may not be easy, but it is possible. While the sweating is often uncontrollable when not treated, following a proper treatment plan can and will help you in the prevention of embarrassing sweat moments.
Types of Hyperhidrosis
The most common form of hyperhidrosis is Palmar hyperhidrosis, commonly referred to as sweaty palms. It is also one of the most noticeable as having sweaty palms can create difficulties in living ones day-to-day life. Social situations can become awkward, and even functioning in ones job can be affected by this condition.
Imagine someone who spends all day at a computer and is responsible for excessive typing. Having to constantly stop working and try their hands to keep from affecting the keyboard not only slows down their work, but also draws attention to their situation.
The majority of patients suffering from Palmar hyperhidrosis will most likely also suffer from Plantar hyperhidrosis, or excessive foot sweating. While Plantar hyperhidrosis is not as noticeable as Palmar, it can also create difficulties in a patient’s life. Your shoes can become ruined after being soaked with sweat on a daily basis. Wearing shoes that others don’t have to even think twice about like sandals or flip-flops is a distant dream.
Wearing heels can be difficult unless knee-highs or pantyhose are worn to absorb some of the moisture to keep the shoes from sliding around while walking. Unlike Palmar hyperhidrosis, Plantar can also cause an embarrassing odor that would be noticeable to anyone around when shoes are removed, even if the person is wearing socks.
Axillary hyperhidrosis, known as armpit sweating, is the third type of hyperhidrosis that can affect an individual. While everyone has armpit sweating in some fashion, approximately 1% of the population actually has excessive, dripping, constant under arm sweating.
While 99% of the population can control their under arm sweating with over the counter deodorants and antiperspirants, those who suffer from Axillary hyperhidrosis are immune to the ingredients in these remedies. Like Plantar hyperhidrosis, most of those who suffer from Axillary hyperhidrosis also suffer from Palmar hyperhidrosis.
An additional type of hyperhidrosis is Facial Sweating and Blushing. It mostly exists as an added symptom of either Palmar, Plantar or Axillary hyperhidrosis and rarely exists on its own.
This can also be one of the more noticeable and embarrassing symptoms of hyperhidrosis, because while you can hide your hands or your feet, amd plan your clothing around under arm sweating you can’t hide your face from those around you. An added embarrassment is when a female is wearing makeup.
You cannot control the sweating, and what once was a perfect look is turned into a sweaty mess complete with running foundation, with nothing that can be immediately done to stop it from occurring.
While it is not necessarily the same as sweating, facial blushing, also known as Erythrophobia is also considered a part of hyperhidrosis. While most people experience some form of blushing at one time or another, Erythrophobia can pop up in the most unexpected time and places.
It will change the skin tone of your face, and when the condition is aggravated, the blushing can spread to the neck and chest areas. The most common occurrence is in social situations, especially those that are most important to the person involved.
The most common and noticeable symptom of hyperhidrosis is a simple one: excessive sweating. The majority of those who suffer from hyperhidrosis begin to notice the symptoms during late childhood and their early teen years. While one may not necessarily feel themselves sweating in their feet or under arms, stained clothing and foot odor can also be considered a symptom of the condition.
If one consistently has smeared ink when submitting handwritten papers, they could possibly be suffering from hyperhidrosis. Or if you are sweating through clothing in the dead of winter, it is most likely caused by hyperhidrosis.
One of the most commonly asked questions of hyperhidrosis patients is “what causes this?” followed by “is there anything I could have done to prevent it?” The answer, in a nutshell, is no. Sweating is essential to the body in order to help it stay cool. However, hyperhidrosis can sometimes be a result of a more prominent medical condition and is then referred to as secondary hyperhidrosis. This sweating can either take place all over the body, or remain concentrated in one specific area.
Some examples of conditions that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis are anxiety conditions, cancer, heart disease, lung disease, menopause, a stroke, hyperthyroidism and many other serious conditions.
But for the most part, the root cause of hyperhidrosis remains a mystery to doctors even today. The most commonly known cause is simply referred to as overactive sweat glands. Excessive sweating can be triggered by nerves, embarrassment, anger or fear; however to those who suffer from hyperhidrosis, the excessive sweating happens even without such triggers.
Odd Sweating Outbreaks
Even an evening watching one’s favorite television show can lead to an outbreak of sweating, leading to both physical and emotional discomfort. History and research have disproved the theory that anxiety, embarrassment or fear caused hyperhidrosis, as studies proved that those with the condition experienced excessive sweating even in periods of calm.
The most commonly agreed upon cause of hyperhidrosis is simply genetics. Those whose parents experienced some excessive sweating in their teenage years can also expect to experience it themselves.
Another belief is that teens going through puberty can experience an onset of excessive sweating as a result of a physiological reaction to their introduction to adulthood. In the same sense, women who are experiencing menopause can also find themselves suffering from hyperhidrosis, as their body reacts to the changes it is going through, much like those teens going through puberty. Reactions to certain foods and obesity have also been known to trigger an onset of excessive sweating.
While hyperhidrosis is not necessarily a serious or deadly disease, it is not without its risks. Most outsiders see the condition as more of a nuisance than something serious, however when an onset occurs, things could actually turn dangerous. Many people suffering from Palmar hyperhidrosis have difficulty driving when their condition is triggered, as their hands may slip from the steering wheel.
Those suffering from hyperhidrosis can also suffer from fungal nail infections, bacterial infections, athlete’s foot or jock itch, as the excessive sweating also releases excessive toxins and bacteria onto their bodies, which gets trapped between the skin and their clothing, with no room to breathe.
Testing and Diagnosis
The first step in diagnosing hyperhidrosis is to schedule a visit with your doctor.
While the majority of general care physicians will recommend scheduling a visit with a dermatologist, as they will have the most advanced knowledge and treatment options, a primary care physician, however, can rule out any additional serious conditions that could cause one to suffer from secondary hyperhidrosis.
After scheduling your initial appointment, keep track of when an onset occurs. The doctors will need to know this in order to proceed with the proper method of treatment.
Once you have discussed your symptoms with the doctor, most will have you undergo the paper test. During the paper test, a certain type of paper specifically designed for the purpose is placed at the location of your excessive sweating.
As you continue to sweat, the paper absorbs and is weighed to determine exactly how much sweat you produced and if you are indeed producing enough sweat to be considered a hyperhidrosis patient.
If you are looking for an at home diagnosis before you make a doctor’s appointment, you can try the iodine-starch test. One would need to apply iodine to the area they feel is producing the excessive sweat. Once the iodine has dried, starch is then applied on top of the iodine. If the area turns blue, then it is likely you are suffering from hyperhidrosis.
Methods of Prevention
While it is impossible to entirely prevent hyperhidrosis from affecting you, there are some things that you can do to lessen the impact the symptoms will have on your day-to-day life. Many feel that the excessiveness of the sweating can be caused by the food you eat.
Foods that contain caffeine, as well as smoking cigarettes containing nicotine, can act as stimulants and increase the amount of perspiration from your body. In addition, foods such as garlic, onion and fish are believed to have an affect your body odor, which can increase the awareness others may have of your condition.
Also, if you are suffering from Axillary hyperhidrosis, it is recommended that you share under arm hair regularly, as the thickness of the hair can provide a breeding ground for odor creating bacteria.
When you begin treatment for hyperhidrosis, the first thing the doctor will have you do is try an extra strength antiperspirant such as Drysol. In most cases, Drysol is available via prescription, and cost will vary depending on your insurance carrier’s policy.
It is a lotion in the form of aluminum hydrochloride, and unfortunately seems to cause more sweating than relief to most patients, as lotion usually accelerates the condition.
If the Drysol does not work, doctors usually have one of two options for the next step, depending on the patient. The first would be Oral Anti Hyperhidrosis Medications, mostly likely a medication that is used to treat other conditions that doctors have found to be successful in treating hyperhidrosis.
The medications work by sending a specific neurotransmitter to interfere with certain receptors that play a role in the production of sweat. These medications usually include Robinul, Ditropan and Propantheline, and while they prove successful for some patients, others either do not have success or discontinue them due to side effects such as blurry vision and dry mouth. Like Drysol, these medications are available via prescription and costs will vary depending on the patient’s insurance carrier.
The other option is to have Botox injections at the sites of hyperhidrosis. In fact, most insurance companies are now demanding that patients try Botox injections before they will agree to pay for the next step of treatment. Botox is a temporary fix, and if it does work for you, multiple injections will be required as the effects begin to wear off.
To be continuously effective, Botox must be administered every six to twelve months. Treatments can be quite painful, and expensive because although insurance will cover partial costs, the frequency in which it is required can become costly.
If none of the options have worked for you, the final option is a new and permanent solution: Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy (ETS). While this is a relatively new and unknown type of procedure, it appears to be the only option for a permanent treatment for hyperhidrosis.
ETS, while safe and effective, is still a surgery, performed under general anesthesia. Incisions are made under both armpits and the nerves relating to overactive sweating are clamped, thus decreasing the likelihood the patient will continue to have severe problems. However, only approximately 50% of patients have shown improvement, while the rest have gone through the procedure only to have the same problems as they did before.
Living with hyperhidrosis is not an easy task, and it is a condition that you will most likely never win the full battle with and go on to live your life without it. But with the proper treatment, preventative measures, you can make life more bearable while technology advances to create possibly more permanent solutions in the future.