If you've ever sweated through your shirt on a cold day or find that your hands are always damp, no matter the situation, you may be wondering whether your sweating is in the normal range or whether you have an actual diagnosable disorder. Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, affects two to three percent of American adults, making it one of the more common issues for the endocrine system; but you can’t find many over-the-counter treatments for this condition.
Read on to learn more about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of this common but little-known disorder.
What Causes Hyperhidrosis?
In many cases, hyperhidrosis can be caused by an illness or injury that disrupts the endocrine system. This is known as secondary hyperhidrosis. A pituitary tumor, autoimmune disorder, or even just a concussion that impacts a specific part of the brain can cause your sweat glands to constantly produce sweat rather than just reacting to heat or stress (like most sweat glands).
Some medications can also have hyperhidrosis as a listed side effect, and if the benefits of the medication are equal to the hassles of hyperhidrosis, discontinuing this regimen could be a bad idea. But in other cases, hyperhidrosis doesn't have any observable cause. This is deemed primary hyperhidrosis.
How Do You Know You Have Hyperhidrosis?
It's possible to be a heavy sweater but not have hyperhidrosis. If you tend to seriously sweat while exercising, during times of stress, or after stepping into a hot room, but are relatively sweat-free the rest of the time, your body may be exhibiting typical sweating behavior.
But if you seem to constantly sweat, even while you're cold, and have noticed your sweating impact your daily life and even your ability to do things like type on a keyboard or grip a pen, you could have hyperhidrosis. Individuals suffering from hyperhidrosis don't really have an off switch for their sweating, and in situations where everyone is sweating, can produce enough sweat to soak through clothes, furniture, and shoes.
There are two primary varieties of hyperhidrosis: axillary, which tends to affect the underarms, and palmoplantar, which affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. However, some individuals who have one of these types of hyperhidrosis also experience excessive sweating elsewhere, like the groin, back, or legs.
How Is Hyperhidrosis Treated?
Milder cases of hyperhidrosis can sometimes be treated with prescription-strength deodorants and antiperspirants to reduce both the amount and the odor of the sweat you produce. But if you'd like to put behind you for good the social anxiety your sweating can cause, you may want to consider one or more of the following treatments.
The same medication used to treat facial wrinkles can also successfully eliminate the excess sweating caused by hyperhidrosis. Botox is derived from the same toxin that causes the serious food poisoning botulism, and works by temporarily paralyzing the nerves it encounters. When injected into your underarms, palms, or feet, Botox can calm your sweat glands so that you only produce a typical amount of sweat.
Because Botox is naturally absorbed by the body over time, people who choose this option will either need to schedule it around special events (like job interviews, weddings, and dates) or commit to having the procedure performed several times each year.
Laser treatment operates in much the same way as Botox, but it tends to have longer-lasting results. By closing off some of your overactive sweat glands with a laser, dermatologists can significantly reduce the amount of sweat you produce.
If some of the symptoms of hyperhidrosis hit close to home, you may want to contact a dermatologist to discuss your options. Excessive sweating can be embarrassing and anxiety-inducing, so seeking treatment for this common condition sooner rather than later is best.