Hyperhidrosis is a sweating condition that affects up to 5% of the world’s population. It is excessive sweating beyond what our bodies physiologically need, and that isn’t caused by heat or exercise. Many people are too embarrassed by the condition to talk about it, therefore it is very likely that the number of sufferers worldwide is higher than we are aware of.
The degree to which people suffer varies, as does the localisation of the condition. Some sufferers will experience excessive sweating only on their hands and feet, while others may struggle daily with constantly damp armpits and have to change clothes two or three times a day. These are both examples of primary hyperhidrosis, which has no known cause. Secondary hyperhidrosis is generally caused by underlying conditions, such as some medications, diabetes, HIV or Tuberculosis, Gout or a dependency on alcohol or drugs, among other things.
There is no way to prevent primary hyperhidrosis from occurring, but you may be able to prevent the symptoms of secondary hyperhidrosis by changing your medication, or your diet. If your symptoms are the result of an illness like heart disease or cancer, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to prevent them. Whatever the symptoms, it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis so that you can seek treatment.
Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating) Diagnosis
If you find that you are sweating excessively for no particular reason, you may also be experiencing one or more of the following physical and psychological side-effects:
- Skin problems like bacterial or fungal infections
- Constant worry about sweat-stained clothing
- Worry about body odour
- Increased self-consciousness
- Social withdrawal
- Reluctance to have any physical contact
- Low self-esteem
If you suspect that you’re suffering with hyperhidrosis, it’s important to consult with a medical professional for a diagnosis. In addition to possibly undergoing a physical examination, you are likely to be asked a series of questions relating to the pattern of sweating: which areas it affects, any specific times of day that are worse than others, any triggers, or if sweating occurs during the night. You may also have to answer questions relating to your emotional or psychological reaction to the periods of excessive sweating. The questions could be asked directly by a professional, or you may be given a questionnaire to complete. It’s vital to give the medical practitioner as much information as possible, as should the hyperhidrosis be of the secondary type, then it could be alleviated by simply changing your lifestyle or changing your medication.
If there is no obvious cause for the sweating, then the consultant may opt to run certain tests. The most common are blood tests. These are done to check your full blood count, or sugar levels to identify if diabetes could be a cause. Blood tests will also check your liver, kidney and thyroid functions and identify any concerns in these areas.
It’s really important not to be embarrassed to seek help for this condition. Too many people struggle through their daily routine, withdraw from society or suffer high levels of anxiety and stress as a result of this condition. Although there is no cure, there is treatment available that can relieve the symptoms and there is no need to suffer unnecessarily.
Treatment for Hyperhidrosis
There are some home-based measures that you can take to reduce the effect of hyperhidrosis, although these lifestyle changes are short-lived and won’t have a dramatic effect on your condition at all. Many of them are only options for specific parts of your body and you may need to use a few simultaneously to obtain a more well-rounded effect.
To make life more bearable on a daily basis, you can try any or all of the following measures to ease the physical discomfort of excessive sweating:
Substitute your normal soaps and soap-based body washes for emollients. These are moisturizing treatments that soothe and hydrate the skin, and trapping the moisture under a protective film. They are a recommended treatment for sufferers of eczema and psoriasis.
Use an antiperspirant instead of a deodorant. Where a deodorant only hides the smell of sweat, an antiperspirant reduces the amount of sweat that you exude. It contains a substance called aluminium chloride that blocks the pathways leading from your sweat glands to the surface of the skin.
Clothing and Shoes
Wearing white or black clothing will help to reduce the visibility of sweat marks. To allow your skin to breathe, you should wear clothes made of natural fibres like linen and cotton, and avoid clothes made from man-made, synthetic fibres like nylon. Loose clothing will also allow better airflow to and around your skin than tight-fitting clothes.
If you sweat particularly badly under your arms, you can try using absorbent clothing protection pads which will hide the signs of sweating.
Wearing open shoes, sandals or leather shoes will allow your feet to breathe, rather than closed shoes, or shoes made from synthetic materials. Try, where possible, not to wear the same pair of shoes on consecutive days. You should change your socks regularly, and preferably wear ones made from natural fibres, or are more absorbent, like sports socks. For additional comfort, absorbent inner soles can also be used.
Avoid spicy food as this is known to induce sweating. Alcohol and caffeine intake should also be reduced, or stopped completely, for the same reason.
Botulinum Toxin (Botox)
As much as the aforementioned lifestyle changes can assist in reducing the effect of hyperhidrosis and provide a degree of comfort, none of them are particularly long-lasting treatments. Vein Solutions offers the very effective treatment of Botulinum Toxin for hyperhidrosis. This is a protein produced by a bacterium that causes Botulism, which is these days a very rare infection. Botulinum toxin is most often associated with treatment for the reduction of facial lines and wrinkles, but has been proven to be an effective treatment for hyperhidrosis.
Treatment involves multiple injections of a very low dosage of the substance, a few centimetres apart in the affected area. It acts by blocking the function of the nerves that activate the sweat glands, thereby preventing the glands from producing too much sweat. If necessary, the skin can be numbed prior to the injections being given, using an anaesthetic cream. This treatment is especially effective in the underarm area, and it’s licensed for use in this area in the UK. You’ll start to notice a difference after a few days, but the full effect is sometimes only noticeable about two weeks after treatment.
The result of botulinum toxin treatment is not permanent, and the length of time it lasts differs from person to person. On average the treatment will last for four to six months. Treatment can be repeated when the excessive sweating reoccurs.
Adverse reactions from botulinum toxin treatment are rare, but you should be aware of the following possible side effects that you could experience:
- Pain, discomfort or redness in the area where the injections were given, but this usually disappears after a few days. Some bruising may also occur.
- Sweating in another part of your body, to compensate for the reduced sweat in the treated area
- Weakness in the muscles around the injection site, more often felt when treatment is in the hands and/or feet. This could take a couple of weeks to disappear.
When Should You Not Have Botulinum Toxin Treatment?
There are some circumstances under which this treatment is not recommended.
These include the following:
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding – although there has been no specific research done, it is not recommended
- People suffering with neuromuscular disorders, or with a history of such diseases in their family, eg Myasthenia Gravis
- People who have suffered with Bell’s Palsy
- Anyone who has had an allergy to human albumin
- People on aminoglycoside antibiotics should wait until they have completed the course of medication before having treatment.
Life is challenging enough without the daily struggle of coping with constantly damp hands or armpits. Book a consultation with us for an accurate diagnosis of the condition. Regardless of the severity of your symptoms, there is help available.
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