What is Hyperhidrosis (Excessive sweating) and why is it happening to me?

Hyperhidrosis is a chronic condition occurring in some people whereby they suffer from excessive sweating.  These areas tend to be the hands, feet, underarms, and groin area, as these areas typically contain the most concentrated number of sweat glands.  The sweating is an abnormal condition where excessive sweat exists for a reason not related to physical activity. There are an endless amount of causes of this condition, but what we have found to be the most common cause is genetics.  Many of our patients are teenagers who have had this condition for as long as they can remember. 

It is associated with a significant quality of life burden from a psychological, emotional, and social perspective. As such, it has been referred to as the 'silent handicap'.

“Palmar Hyperhidrosis” is the excessive sweating of the hands, which for some people, is the most serious of the conditions as it can have a devastating impact on their social wellbeing.  Many sufferers may be embarrassed or even mortified to shake hands, or touch others due to their condition.  In some cases, this can impact their ability to work or perform well in school, either due to the social and emotional impact, or due to the fact that they use their hands write, grasp objects, or perform other tasks that require dry hands.  In almost all of these cases, suffers are very conscious of their disorder, and will make significant life decisions to avoid coming into contact with others, or to seek employment in a profession that won’t require dry hands.  In some cases, the anxiety associated with this, increases the sweat activity, making the issue even worse.

In some less severe cases, hands will simply feel “cold and clammy” which also typically indicates that there is excessive moisture in the hand, even though the moisture isn’t severe.  This can also have an impact on people socially, as cold and clammy hands can still cause embarrassment.

“Plantar Hyperhidrosis” is the excessing sweating of the feet.  This can also cause physical impairment or embarrassment and for some is severe.  Excessive sweating in the feet can cause an unwanted stench in the feet, and can be uncomfortable for many people.  For many women, they are unable to wear slide on or open toed shoes, as their feet slide around.  It can leave shoes and socks soaking, and can hinder those in sports or in professional situations.

What are the different treatments for Hyperhidrosis?

There are a few treatments for hyperhidrosis, including surgery, antiperspirants, Botox, anticholinergic medication and Iontophoresis (see our “Pros and Cons” of Hyperhidrosis treatments on our Iontophoresis page).  Surgery may be the only permanent solution, but is also a risky endeavor, as for some, the side effects can be devastating.  For those using surgery for sweaty hands or feet, in some cases, excessive sweating in other areas (called compensatory sweating) can show up in other areas of the body, which can be uncontrollable. 

Antiperspirants can be effective if used in high enough doses (more than a standard antiperspirant), but is typically only effective for sweating in the armpit area, and seems to be less effective on the hands and feet.

Botox can also be effective, but can be expensive and very painful, and only lasts for as little as a couple of months, requiring recurring visits to the doctor performing the Botox procedure.

We have found that Iontophoresis is the safest and most effective treatment for Hyperhidrosis, and has shown to be highly effective in 85% of cases, with minimal potential temporary side effects. Iontophoresis has no known documented long term side effects.  To view our Iontophoresis discussion, and how it stacks up against other treatments, please click here.

For the absolute authority on everything Hyperhidrosis, please visit the International Hyperhidrosis Society, and see their recommendation of the RA Fischer Iontophoresis device here.