Hyperhidrosis, also known as excessive sweating, is a health condition that involves a higher amount of sweat than usual. Sweating is a normal bodily process that serves to cool the body down, but when it occurs in excess without an apparent reason and prompts individuals to alter their daily activities, it may become medically significant.
It can affect various parts of the body, including the armpits, hands, feet, face, chest and groin. People who suffer from the condition may be embarrassed about their symptoms, particularly the unpleasant body odor related to hyperhidrosis. As a result, some people may experience anxiety and become socially isolated or depressed.
Hyperhidrosis can occur as secondary to another health condition, usually associated with the central nervous system. There are also several triggers that may trigger hyperhidrosis in its own right:
- Infections (sepsis)
Additionally, some medications are known to increase sweat production and may cause the condition.
The main symptom of hyperhidrosis is excessive sweat production. This is differentiated from normal bodily sweating, as it interferes with daily activities. Examples of this may include:
- Avoiding physical contact (e.g. shaking hands)
- Avoiding activities that may increase sweating (e.g. exercise)
- Difficulty gripping objects or tools due to sweat
- Spending significant time coping with excessive sweat (e.g. showering)
- Becoming self-conscious of sweat and socially isolated
When symptoms inhibit daily activities, it is worthwhile to consider appropriate management to help restore quality of life.
For people that suffer from chronic hyperhidrosis, prevention of excessive sweat is often the best method to cope, in addition for being prepared for symptoms.
Avoiding triggers that worsen symptoms, such as spicy food and alcohol, can help, as well as wearing loose, light clothing. Black and white colored clothes minimize signs of sweating, therefore for individuals self-conscious about the appearance this may be an option. Additionally, using antiperspirant frequently, especially when partaking in activities where sweating is expected should be advised.
As hyperhidrosis can be indicative of other health conditions, such as diabetes and severe infections, it is important that people presenting with symptoms should be tested for these conditions.
Pharmacological management involves the use of anticholinergic drugs (e.g. propantheline bromide) may help to reduce sweat production. There are some side effects associated with the use of anticholinergic drugs, however, including dry mouth, blurred vision and constipation.
For severe cases, referral to a dermatologist may be warranted to consider treatment with iontophoresis. This is able to target a particular area of the body, such as the hands or feet, to block sweat glands with the use of a weak electronic current. This is quite effective at decreasing sweat production and treatment is not painful, although may cause mild skin irritation.