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Hyperhidrosis FAQ

Book Review
July 5, 2012
Stop Sweating and Start Living - Mike Ramsey

I have absolutely no hesitation in saying "Stop Sweating and Start Living" will soon put antiperspirant companies out of business.

I was reluctant at first to endorse any product but this book was different. The remedies it suggests are all-natural and target the root causes of problem sweating.

My only complaint is that it is only available as an instant access ebook. It can't be purchased in bookstores or on Amazon.com, but I'm sure the instant download feature is popular with people overseas and those who are ready to get started.

I strongly recommend "Stop Sweating and Start Living" to anyone who sweats excessively in the underarm, hand, foot, face or back areas.

- James Chambers

Though knowledge about hyperhidrosis is gradually spreading there is still a significant lack of popular awareness about this medical condition. I hope the list of frequently asked questions and their answers that I have listed below will contribute to your knowledge of the condition. Beginning with the most basic question I will try and make out as comprehensive a list as possible so here goes:

1. What is Hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which a patient experiences excessive sweating in the face palms underarms and feet. According to the area that it affects hyperhidrosis is categorized into facial hyperhidrosis palmar hyperhidrosis axillary hyperhidrosis and plantar hyperhidrosis respectively. In one form or another it affects nearly 3% of the American population.

While the root cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown it has been established that it is caused when the sympathetic nervous system which stimulates sweat production goes into overdrive and causes the sweat glands to produce more sweat than is required to keep the body cool. Some research studies seek to prove that hyperhidrosis is a genetic condition while others link it to emotional stress of some kind.

Whatever form it takes hyperhidrosis causes tremendous emotional social and professional embarrassment. For example a person afflicted by the problem of severe underarm sweating is constantly worried about such side effects as stained clothes and body odor. Similarly those with palmar hyperhidrosis will hesitate before they as much as shake hands for fear of rejection by business acquaintances or friends.

2. Is hyperhidrosis always inherited?

No. However in almost 50% of recorded cases there is a family history of hyperhidrosis. When a person is born with this condition he or she has primary hyperhidrosis while if hyperhidrosis develops as a result of another medical condition such as menopause or hyperthyroidism it is called secondary hyperhidrosis. In the latter instance the sweating is usually spread across larger areas of the body and not localized as in the case of primary hyperhidrosis as described in FAQ 1.

3. Can hyperhidrosis be treated?

Yes. Increasingly there are a number of available options to treat if not permanently cure hyperhidrosis. These options range from topical applications and oral medication to surgery and alternative remedies. Most physicians these days are aware of the various treatment options for hyperhidrosis though a lot of physicians now specialize in the condition and frequent developments are being reported daily. Usually an online search will give you the relevant information.

4. What are the current treatments for hyperhidrosis?

The most popular methods to treat hyperhidrosis are:

  • Focal injections: interrupting the signal from the sympathetic nervous system to the sweat glands

  • Topical treatments: applying chemical antiperspirants like aluminum chloride

  • Oral medications: treating the underlying conditions

  • Iontophoresis: applying low-intensity electric current to the affected areas

  • Surgery: surgically clipping or interfering with the nerves that cause excessive sweating

5. Do the treatments last for life?

Non-surgical treatments for hyperhidrosis such as the ones described above usually have a short-lived effect. Though surgery has relatively long-term impact it involves certain side effects that may not agree with all patients.

Therefore it is best to assume that hyperhidrosis will usually last your lifetime. However the good thing is that hyperhidrosis is what physicians call a ‘benign’ disease that in no way affects longevity. Neither does it put a patient at increased risk of any other ailment. So simply alleviating the symptoms is a good enough way to combat the disease.

6. How is Botox used to treat hyperhidrosis?

Botox a product manufactured by the California-based pharmaceutical company Allergan Inc. from botulinum toxin is injected into the area in which excessive sweating occurs and stops sweating by temporary blocking the nerve endings in that area and thus decreasing the transmission to the sweat glands. The effect of a Botox injection typically lasts 6-10 months after which a repeat injection needs to be administered.

If you do choose to go in for Botox therapy however make sure you find a reputable and qualified practitioner. As of now the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Botox only in the treatment of excessive underarm sweating or axillary hyperhidrosis though research on the efficacy of Botox to treat other forms of hyperhidrosis continues.

You should be warned however that most patients have experienced considerable pain while being administered multiple Botox injections in the palms. The injections also tend to be a little expensive since a lot of health insurance companies will not pay for this form of treatment.

7. What is endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy?

Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy also called ETS is a surgical procedure that involves making minute incisions in the underarm to install titanium clips that block transmissions from the sympathetic nervous system to the sweat glands. Alternatively a minuscule cut is made at a strategic point in the sympathetic nervous system to interrupt the transmission of signals. The procedure takes very little time and is virtually painless because it is conducted under anesthesia. However there are certain side effects that you ought to know about.

8. What are the side effects of ETS?

The commonest is compensatory sweating in other parts of the body. While there is no definite answer as to why compensatory sweating occurs everyone experiences it in greater or lesser degree after ETS. A lot of people fear that they will suffer dehydration owing to compensatory sweating. While that may not always be the case there is a risk that about 5%-10% of patients will display severe compensatory sweating.

9. Should I try topical solutions before I try ETS?

Yes. Occasionally with relatively mild cases of hyperhidrosis patients will secure relief through topical agents such as aluminum chloride and patent antiperspirants such as deodorizers. Aluminum-based antiperspirants are popularly known as astringents which plug sweat glands. If you are allergic to a few of the ingredients in the astringents however your skin may develop localized rashes and sting a little. Additionally they can only be used for excessive underarm sweating and not for the palms face or feet.

10. How does iontophoresis work?

Iontophoresis uses a simple device to treat palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis and offers a viable alternative to antiperspirants and oral medication. It usually has a relatively high success rate and involves the use of water to conduct a mild electrical current through the skin’s surface as I mentioned briefly earlier. The idea is to thicken the outer layer of the skin so that the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface is blocked. If iontophoresis with plain water doesn’t work a certain dose of anti-cholinergic may be added which usually solves the problem.

However iontophoresis is not recommended for pregnant women cardiac patients and people with metal implants or epilepsy. Additionally all metallic objects should be removed before the procedure and skin abrasions and cuts should be covered.

10. So which kind of treatment is the most effective?

First of all there is no single ‘cure’ for hyperhidrosis. One method may suit one individual and not another and the intensity of the affliction differs from person to person so a patient needs to discuss all the pros and cons of each form of treatment with the doctor.