What is hyperhidrosis?
If you find yourself sweating excessively even when you’re not very hot, you may have hyperhidrosis. This condition affects about 3% of the world population. People with hyperhidrosis tend to sweat when they’re at rest and not exerting themselves.This condition is caused by overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. The arteries become very narrow and overstimulate the sweat glands. Your hands may feel cold and clammy since the blood flow is restricted.
Hyperhidrosis most commonly occurs in the hands, feet, and axillae (armpits). Some people may also experience excessive sweating on their face or all over their body. Hyperhidrosis affects both sides of the body equally. So if one hand or side of the face sweats, so does the other.
This medical condition can interfere with everyday activities. For example, people who have sweaty hands may find it hard to grip door knobs or hold onto objects. You may also hold back from doing physical activities, like dancing in public, because it may cause you to sweat profusely.
Signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis usually appears around adolescence, sometimes around the time of puberty. While there aren’t any set ways to measure how much sweating is normal, there are signs and symptoms of excessive sweating.
Excessively sweaty hands
One area of the body that is commonly affected by hyperhidrosis is the hands. People with very sweaty hands may have trouble holding onto things. Your job may also be affected if you have difficulty grasping things like tools or a keyboard or you avoid shaking hands.
Time spent coping with sweating
People with hyperhidrosis often spend time each day trying to deal with their excessive sweating. This could be showering frequently, changing your clothes often, or trying to cool down.
Embarrassment and anxiety
Excessive sweating can cause people to feel embarrassment or anxiety. Hyperhidrosis can make you feel self-conscious about your sweating or trying to hide your sweating.
WithdrawalHyperhidrosis can make you feel like you don’t want to participate in everyday activities. Since many people feel self-conscious about their sweating, they may avoid social situations where their sweating might be noticed. Activities like dating, dancing in public, or other activities with movement might feel too intimidating, so people with hyperhidrosis often withdraw entirely.
Types of hyperhidrosis
There are two types of hyperhidrosis. These two types help experts to better understand the cause and treatment for them.
Primary focal hyperhidrosis
The first type is called primary focal hyperhidrosis. This type isn’t caused by an underlying medical condition or the result of taking a medication. Rather, profuse sweating is the medical condition itself.
In this type, sweating is usually focused on concentrated areas of the body, such as:
It affects both sides of the body equally. This type often begins in childhood and continues throughout your lifetime. People with primary focal hyperhidrosis often have excessive sweating during the daytime but don’t sweat much, or at all, while they sleep.
Secondary generalized hyperhidrosisSecondary generalized hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying medical condition or a medication. People with this type usually experience sweating all over the body and not just in certain areas. They also may sweat excessively while they are sleeping.
Causes of hyperhidrosis
The exact cause of primary focal hyperhidrosis is not known. Most people with this form are otherwise healthy.
Scientists have discovered that about 40% of people who have primary focal hyperhidrosis have family members who also sweat excessively. They believe that this condition may run in families or can be inherited.
Certain medical conditions or factors may cause secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. Some of these include:
- Head trauma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
MedicationsCertain medications can also provoke secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. It’s important to note that hyperhidrosis can be a certain side effect of some medications, though not every person who takes that medication will be affected.
Diagnosis for hyperhidrosis
If you feel that you have symptoms of hyperhidrosis, you can make an appointment to talk to your doctor. Usually, they will diagnose you by giving you a physical exam and asking about your symptoms.
There is no cure for primary focal hyperhidrosis, but if your doctor suspects that you have secondary generalized hyperhidrosis they may order blood or urine tests to find the underlying cause.
Treatments for hyperhidrosis
While there is no cure for hyperhidrosis, there are ways that you can manage your sweating.
If you’re sweating is concentrated in an area like the axillae or face, a topical medication called Drysol may help. This helps to reduce sweating over time. An option for armpits and hands is Botox. This reduces sweating for anywhere from three to six months.
In extreme cases, doctors may suggest surgery as an option, but they prefer to advocate the least invasive options. There are some things that you can do to make your sweating more manageable:
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing
- Wear moisture-absorbing socks or change them twice daily
- Wear different shoes each day so they have time to dry out
- Avoid man-made fabrics
- Avoid things that make sweating worse, like spicy food and alcohol
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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Piedmont Healthcare: "Signs you’re sweating too much."
University of California San Francisco: "Hyperhidrosis Signs and Symptoms."