Hyperhidrosis is a common disorder in which a person sweats excessively for no apparent reason. In this condition, sweat glands are overactive. Hyperhidrosis may be caused by certain drugs, serious systemic diseases, neurological disorders, facial surgery and anxiety.
Hyperhidrosis causes embarrassment and may lead to social withdrawal. In severe cases, sweating is the major concern as excessive sweating makes it difficult to perform activities such as holding a pen, gripping a car steering or shaking hands. This condition is usually treatable with medications, home remedies or surgery.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Excess sweating is the hallmark sign of hyperhidrosis. Sweating is more prominent in areas of the body wherein the concentration of sweat glands is more such as the underarms, soles, palms and face. Excess sweat stains clothes, complicates business and social interactions
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
Hyperhidrosis is of two types:
Primary focal hyperhidrosis: This refers to the hyperhidrosis that runs in the family and it often starts in childhood.
Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis: This condition is caused by a medical condition or as the side effect of certain medicines. Sweating may be evident in one area or all over the body. The person may sweat even during sleep.
The following conditions can cause secondary hyperhidrosis
- Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis or HIV
- Adrenal gland disorders
- Spinal cord injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
The following are some of the complications of hyperhidrosis:
- Excessive sweating can make the person feel more depressed, anxious, emotionally stressed and less confident.
- Sweat rash can occur due to blockage of sweat glands under the skin.
- Increased susceptibility to develop human papilloma virus infection which causes skin warts (growths).
- Bacterial infections of the toes, toenails and hair follicles can occur.
The doctor may observe visible signs of excessive sweating. The doctor may discuss with the patient about pattern and areas of sweating.
Hyperhidrosis can be easily identified by assessing the sweating pattern of an individual upon exposure to heat. Unlike normal people, excessive sweating is observed on the palms of hands in people affected with hyperhydrosis.
• Routine blood and urine tests: Blood sugar or thyroid tests are ordered by the doctor to identify conditions such as, hyperthyroidism and hypoglycemia which may contribute to hyperhydrosis.
• Thermoregulatory sweat test: This test is done by applying a moisture sensitive powder to the skin at room temperature. Changes in the color of the powder indicate excessive sweating.
- Applying perspirants containing aluminium chloride can stop sweat production by blocking the sweat glands.
- Using an armpit shield can absorb sweat and protect the garment from staining.
- Wearing loose clothes and avoiding clothes made from synthetic fibers as they do not absorb sweat and irritate skin.
- Using socks made of natural fibers which have a good absorbing capacity.
- Wearing leather shoes as they do not react or irritate the skin.
- The doctor may prescribe a cream containing glycopyrrolate which is effective for hyperhidrosis of the face and head.
- Medications which block the nerves supplying the sweat glands are also used to treat hyperhidrosis.
- Antidepressants are used to treat this condition as they can decrease sweating. Additionally, they also relieve the stress and anxiety caused by hyperhidrosis.
- Botulinum toxin injections: The patient’s skin is first cooled with ice or anesthetized, then botulinum toxin is injected into the affected area. Botulinum toxin acts by blocking the chemicals that stimulate the sweating. This treatment is painful and causes temporary muscle weakness in the treated area.
- Anticholinergic drugs: The doctor may prescribe anti-cholinergic drugs that can control excessive sweating. However, it can cause side effects such as urinary problems, blurred vision and heart palpitations.
- Microwave therapy: In this therapy, sweat glands are destroyed using a device that delivers microwave energy. This therapy is expensive and not widely available.
- Sweat gland removal: Suction curettage is a minimally invasive technique used to completely remove the sweat glands in areas like the armpits.
- Nerve surgery (sympathectomy): The surgeon may cut, burn or clamp the spinal nerves of hands that control sweating. However, this it can trigger excessive sweating in other areas of the body.
The following are the some of the ways to prevent hyperhidrosis:
- Managing stress by practicing yoga and other exercises
- Dressing strategically as per the season
- Avoiding foods that trigger sweating
- Applying antiperspirant regularly