It doesn’t take much this time of year to cause someone to start sweating a lot. Just the thought of heading outside during this record heat wave might be enough to send sweat trickling down the backs of most Americans, and with good reason. The dog days of summer have still yet to arrive, and already the first six moths of 2012 have been the warmest in recorded history, According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


For some people, sweating causes more problems than just needing to carry an extra shirt with them wherever they go. Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from hyperhidrosis, a common disorder that causes excessive sweating of the underarms, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and back. Usually the underarm problems begin during the adolescence of someone who suffers from hyperhidrosis, but the sweaty palms and soles can begin even earlier in life.


If left untreated, hyperhidrosis can be the cause of much embarrassment, and can lead to problems in someone’s personal and professional life. The condition can also cause serious practical consequences, as excessive sweating can make it difficult for people to grip a steering wheel, shake hands, or even hold a pen.


What Causes the Condition?


Even though hyperhidrosis can sometimes be caused by metabolic and neurologic problems, the condition most commonly effects individuals who otherwise enjoy good health. While hyperhidrosis can be triggered by emotions and heat, the majority of those who suffer from the condition sweat nearly all the time, regardless of the temperature or their mood. Fortunately hyperhidrosis can be treated.


Treatment Options


If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, you should consult your doctor to seek treatment options for your condition. Your doctor may begin by systematically evaluating what environmental factors help to trigger your condition, and advise you on ways to reduce your exposure to them. Your doctor will then start you on series of practical treatment methods to see what proves most successful. These treatments can include:


  • Over-the-counter antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride are readily available and may help to reduce the amount you sweat immediately.
  • Prescription strength antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate may be prescribed by your physician if over-the-counter alternatives do little to abate your sweating.
  • Iontophoresis, a technique that uses a small electrical charge to deliver medicine through the skin, is frequently used when the use of antiperspirants prove ineffective. The procedure helps to block sweat glands in the body, and generally takes one to three weeks of treatments before becoming effective.
  • Oral medications, such as anticholinergics, reduce sweating and have shown effective for treating hyperhidrosis. These drugs, however, do carry side effects, such as dry mouth and blurred vision.
  • Botox has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment option for preventing underarm sweating. The nerve toxin temporarily paralyzes the muscles in the underarms, and can provide temporary relief from sweating for up to six months. The FDA has currently not approved the procedure for treating excessive sweating in the palms or soles.
  • Surgery. Often considered a last resort, a sympathectomy removes at least one sympathetic ganglion, a part of the nervous system that provides information to the body about stress and impending danger, from the patient’s body. With one less sympathetic ganglion, the body responds less readily to conditions that would usually cause a person to start sweating.


While hyperhidrosis can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, you can get help with dealing with your condition, and stay a little drier this summer and year round.


Timothy Lemke blogs about health for Dr. Bruno da Costa, a dentist in Tigard at Harmony Dental.

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