Get in the Know: Hyperhidrosis 411

Excessive, uncontrollable, embarrassing puddles. Are you part of the 3% who suffers from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)?

Here is a little something to help educate the general public about excessive sweating, a condition that is under-recognized and under-treated. Feel free to print this out and share it with your family and friends. If you’ve never sought treatment before, this is a good starting point to begin a conversation with your doctor.

Don’t be afraid to speak up about your sweating. You are your own best health advocate.

What is hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. It can affect all parts of the body, but is mainly seen on the hands, feet, head, and face. It also can be accompanied by facial blushing.

Approximately 3% of the United States population has hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis may tend to avoid social situations, certain types of clothing, and career choices. It can cause shame, embarrassment, and isolation. Many people try to hide their sweating and don’t talk about it.

What causes hyperhidrosis?

Some physicians say it is caused by an overactive sympathetic nervous system. These are the nerves linked to the "fight or flight" response (when your adrenaline starts pumping).

In people with hyperhidrosis, the sweat glands can secrete up to 5 times more sweat than the average person. Emotional situations, nervousness, and excitement can make symptoms worse. It is still being studied whether hyperhidrosis may be genetic.

What are the symptoms?

  • Increased sweating at any or all times of the day
  • Feeling like your sweat glands are always in the "on" position
  • Levels of sweat that affect your daily personal & professional activities
  • Cold and clammy hands and/or feet
  • Dehydration (feeling like you’re constantly thirsty)
  • Routine tasks become difficult to perform due to the amount of sweat

How is hyperhidrosis diagnosed?

It’s a good idea to keep track of how much you think about your sweating. Does it impair your daily activities? Keep a list of the things you do to deal with your excessive sweating and take it to your doctor. Some ideas might include:

  • How many times per day you change clothes or bathe?
  • Do you carry "supplies" to help you deal with your sweat? (Examples include extra socks, antiperspirant, napkins, or towels.)
  • Do you purchase new clothes or shoes more often than most people because they get ruined from sweating?
  • Have you ever damaged paper, writing materials, office equipment, etc. due to your sweating?
  • Do you get skin infections or skin irritations, especially in the hotter months of the year?

How is hyperhidrosis treated?

There is hope for you if you have excessive sweating. Be open and honest with your doctor about all of your symptoms. The more information you give your doctor, the better your treatment plan will be. Treatments can include:

  • Antiperspirants (clinical strength or prescription versions)
  • Oral prescription medications
  • Iontophoresis (placing the affected areas in a pan of shallow water that has a mild electrical current passing through it)
  • Botox injections
  • Surgical options
  • Endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy (ETS) surgery to cut off the nerve impulses
  • Subdermal laser ablation (SDLA) to interrupt the sweat glands
  • Removal of the sweat glands from the affected areas

How can you prevent hyperhidrosis?

While it’s hard to completely prevent the sweating from happening, these are some tips you can try to make yourself more comfortable.

  • Wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing made from cotton or moisture wicking material
  • Apply your antiperspirant at night to clean, dry skin so it’s better absorbed
  • Wear layered clothing so you can remove items if you get hot and begin to sweat
  • Wear open-heeled shoes or sandals to allow your feet to breathe
  • Wear 100% cotton socks and underwear
  • Purchase a small desk or battery-operated fan that you can use to help circulate the air

To learn more about hyperhidrosis, please visit:

The International Hyperhidrosis Society

For a personal account of life with hyperhidrosis, visit the blog My Life as a Puddle.

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