SUFFERING FROM EXCESS SWEAT?

Discover your treatment options

By Julian A. Hancock, MD

It is sometimes said that men perspire, and ladies 'glow' - but for many, male or female, excess sweating is a medical condition which has in the past been difficult to control. Approximately 2-3% of the population suffers from excess sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis. Usually localized to the underarms, palms or soles this disorder is unfortunately often socially debilitating to the sufferer.

Many people do not realize that there are several treatment options for hyperhidrosis:

  1. First you should have your physician ensure that the excess sweating is not being caused by any underlying condition like menopause, obesity, a metabolic disorder or nerve damage. Sometimes an overactive thyroid can account for generalized excess sweating as well as some medication. These are all considered secondary hyperhidrosis. Treatment for secondary hyperhidrosis begins with treating the underlying condition.

  2. You also need to determine if the sweating is 'generalized' - that is all over the skin surface, or 'focal' - that is just in one area like the underarms, soles of your feet, face or the palms of your hands. Most sufferers of focal hyperhidrosis (approximately 50%) have excess sweating in their underarms.

  3. If your excess sweating just occurs in one area, that is considered focal hyperhidrosis. This condition often comes on suddenly and unfortunately from an unknown origin. Treatment options include the following:

    • You would usually start with trying a strong antiperspirant solutions applied to the underarms or palms. These can be effective, but can also cause irritation.

    • Iontophoresis is a curious treatment that uses torch battery electricity to 'switch off' the sweat glands.

    • BOTOX® (botulinum toxin) was approved in Canada for under arm hyperhidrosis in 2001. (Visit Botox Facts to learn more). Botox® is injected just under the skin to block the release of acetylcholine, which activates the sweat glands. A special starch / iodine test is often performed to first identify the area of maximum sweat gland activity. Botox® for hyperhidrosis is usually effective for 6-8 months, and the cost is covered by most private insurance plans. The use of various local anesthetic techniques minimizes the discomfort of the injections.

    • Surgery is sometimes used, although it is not used as often anymore. Surgical techniques range from removing the excessively sweaty skin of the underarm to an endoscopic thoracic sympahectomy - removing the sweat nerves near the spine in the upper chest.

If you are suffering from excess sweating, you need to know that you are not alone. The key to dealing with your condition is to discuss to your options with your physician.

To learn more about the uses of Botox® visit Botox Facts.ca or for general skin care information; Skin Care Guide.ca.


About the author:
Dr. Julian Hancock qualified from Guy's Hospital Medical School, London UK and gained postgraduate diplomas in paediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, anaesthesia and general practice before specializing in dermatology at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Hancock has a busy dermatology practice in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC - with particular interests in skin cancer, acne, rosacea and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Hancock's Dermatologist Skin Laser Clinic offers cosmetic, laser and medical services


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