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Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating): Meaning, Causes & Treatment

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    Being embarrassed by the ‘absolutely normal’ level of sweating is something that is best avoided in a public setting. We use so many tricks and tips to prevent such a scenario from playing out. Well, what if you suffered from hyperhidrosis and sweat profusely irrespective of the weather conditions? The embarrassment and health implications of this disorder are best kept at an arm’s distance.

    What Is Hyperhidrosis? 

    Hyper means ‘more’ and hidrosis means ‘sweating’. The term hyperhidrosis stands for a medical (dermatological) condition that signifies excessive sweating.

    The skin produces sweat in hot and humid conditions to maintain the body’s temperature. In people suffering from hyperhidrosis, a copious amount of sweat is produced even the body does not need to be cooled down. Usually, body parts such as underarms, palms, feet, and head are affected with one or two of these producing excess sweat.

    Hyperhidrosis can cause a hindrance to daily activities, and when it happens in areas like the underarms, it can leave clothes with large sweat marks, which is an embarrassing situation in social gatherings. In addition to this, this increased wetness makes the skin susceptible to infections.

    What Causes Of Hyperhidrosis?

    Hyperhidrosis can be categorized into two types, and this is based on what causes it.

    • Primary hyperhidrosis is caused due to inheriting the condition from a family member.
    • Secondary hyperhidrosis is due to a condition, behavior or certain medications. A few examples of these include low glucose levels in the blood, hyperthyroidism, chronic alcoholism, hot flashes during menopause, leukemia, diabetes, gout, etc.

    Where In The Body Do People Experience Excess Sweating?

    Excessive sweating can be seen in the following body parts –

    • Palms (palmar hyperhidrosis)
    • Feet (pedal hyperhidrosis)
    • Underarms (axillary hyperhidrosis)
    • Face (facial hyperhidrosis)
    • Under the breasts

    When both the hands and the feet are affected at the same time, the term Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis is often used to describe it.

    What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperhidrosis?

    • Excessive sweating in body parts without the presence of high temperatures or elevated humidity levels
    • Excessive sweating without any physical activity
    • Increased wetness interfering with daily activities such as holding a pen
    • Soft, white, and peeling skin
    • Recurrent skin infections

    To treat hyperhidrosis, many methods or techniques can be employed. These are discussed in detail in the next sections.

    Must Read: Common Skin Diseases And Treatments Available

    How To Treat Hyperhidrosis?

    Treatment for hyperhidrosis includes a few feasible options. Your dermatologist will recommend you with the best option depending on the body areas that are affected and also the longevity of the results that you would prefer. The options include topical treatments, non-surgical treatments, and invasive treatments that can stop the excessive sweating in your palms, underarms, feet, etc.

    Here are the treatments available in the market for hyperhidrosis. Opt for one under the guidance of an experienced skin specialist.

    • Laser Treatment: This is often used as a treatment for sweaty armpits due to hyperhidrosis. After numbing the skin by using a topical anesthetic cream, laser treatment is begun. The light energy from the laser transforms into heat energy in the skin and this heat destroys the sweat glands. Destroyed sweat glands result in a considerable reduction in the amount of sweat that will be produced. Laser treatment for excessive sweating in underarms gives effective and long-lasting results. The procedure possesses no levels of discomfort and has minimum to no downtime as well.
    • Microwave Thermolysis: This treatment employs microwaves to destroy the sweat glands via the thermolysis mechanism, that is, heat energy from the microwaves kills the sweat glands and reduces sweat production. The FDA has approved this equipment for treating underarm hyperhidrosis so far. Performed by a certified skin specialist, the procedure takes less than an hour. No discomfort is experienced as a local anesthetic is used. With no downtime after the session, you can go on with the rest of the day as usual after the procedure is done. Experiments are still ongoing to test the effectiveness of this treatment for other body parts affected by hyperhidrosis.
    • Iontophoresis: In this treatment, the affected body part is subjected to a mild electric current generated by a medical device and passed through water, to reduce excessive sweating in hands and feet. Small pads are used to perform the procedure on body parts that cannot be dipped into the water tray. Usually, the treatment is repeated up to thrice a week and requires maintenance sessions once a week. It is best to get the treatment done by a health professional for optimal results.
    • Oral Medications: When the hyperhidrosis is more generalized or is present in the form of excessive facial sweating, oral medications have shown decent results. Anticholinergics (a class of drugs) are often prescribed by doctors. Some examples belonging to this drug category include glycopyrrolate, oxybutynin, and others. They work by blocking the chemical receptor that triggers the sweat glands to produce sweat.
    • Topical Medications – Medications for hyperhidrosis treatment that can applied on the skin include topical versions of the anticholinergics, tannic acid solutions, potassium permanganate, aluminium chloride gel, and methenamine. The main mechanism of causing lesser sweat production by topical medications involves denaturation of keratin (a type of protein present in the skin), which will eventually block the sweat glands’ pores. There are many limitations for these medications such as contact sensitization, irritation, and staining. Additionally, the results do not last that long.

    Irrespective of which treatment you think suits you and your budget the best, consulting a dermatologist is advisable to understand this skin condition better. Every individual is affected differently by hyperhidrosis, and individualized treatments are necessary for achieving best results.

    Must Read: How To Find A Best Dermatologist Near By?


    Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating, no matter which body part it affects, can be an annoyance and mortifying too. The treatments mentioned above can give you relief and make this skin condition manageable to a great extent. A dermatologist appointment should be ‘on the cards’ for you so that the best treatment course can be opted for.

    Common Questions

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    About The Author

    Kushneet Kukreja

    Kushneet Kukreja

    A postgraduate in Biotechnology from Kingston University and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition, Kushneet Kukreja is a passionate writer who works in close association with the dermatologists at our head office to generate valuable and scientifically accurate content for our blog.

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