Sweating is an automatic process that helps regulate body temperature. Some people have hyperhidrosis, which means sweating more than is necessary.

When body temperature rises, the sweat glands beneath the skin release fluid that is mostly water. As the water evaporates from the skin, it lowers the temperature of the skin and blood, cooling the body.

Researchers estimate that excessive sweating, hyperhidrosis, affects around 3% of the population of the United States.

There are two types: primary and secondary. Secondary hyperhidrosis results from a medical condition or is a side effect of a medication. Primary hyperhidrosis has no identifiable cause.

A related condition is bromhidrosis, or excessive body odor perspiration. This involves excessively sweating a type of sweat that has a foul smell due to the bacteria that break it down.

People are more likely to experience excessive sweating in the underarms and on the face, palms, and soles of the feet. It can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Here, learn about the range of medical treatments and some strategies to try at home.

The treatment for hyperhidrosis depends on its severity. Doctors typically take a step-by-step approach to treat the condition.

If hyperhidrosis is mild, a healthcare professional might recommend:

  • Over-the-counter antiperspirant. A doctor may suggest an aluminum chloride hexahydrate cream, such as Drysol, as an initial treatment option. People can apply the cream nightly for the first 3 or 4 nights, followed by occasional nighttime applications as needed.
  • Topical anticholinergic medications. A doctor may prescribe glycopyrrolate or oxybutynin.

In addition, a type of topical medication called an astringent can help temporarily seal the pores and limit sweating. An example of an astringent is tannic acid. However, the use of these has become less common because they can irritate the skin.

Treatments for severe or resistant hyperhidrosis include:

  • Iontophoresis or botulinum toxin A (Botox) injections. Particularly severe hyperhidrosis may not respond to initial methods of treatment. The next step might be iontophoresis, which involves submerging the feet or hands in shallow trays of water and passing a small electrical current through the water. Experts are not sure exactly why this may reduce sweating in the hands and feet.
  • Anticholinergic medication. Some doctors recommend adding this to the water to help reduce sweating.
  • Surgery. If Botox injections and iontophoresis are unsuccessful, a doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to reduce the sweating. One option is a sympathectomy, which involves damaging the nerve supply to sweat glands. Another option may be removal of sweat glands, which is a less invasive procedure.

Hyperhidrosis may reoccur after surgery. Researchers are now developing methods of using iontophoresis to treat excessive sweating in areas other than the hands and feet.

The following strategies can help people manage:

  • Tracking the symptoms in a journal. This can help a person identify, and when possible avoid, situations that trigger excessive sweating.
  • Avoiding or limiting certain foods. People with hyperhidrosis should avoid or limit their consumption of monosodium glutamate, caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol.
  • Avoiding deodorants. Deodorants merely mask the smell of sweat, while antiperspirants can reduce sweating. The best time to use an antiperspirant is at night. Some doctors recommend using prescription antiperspirants on dry underarms every night for 3 to 5 nights. A person may then reduce the use to once or twice a week.

Tips for reducing sweat on the feet

These strategies may help ease excessive sweating on the feet:

  • wearing sandals when possible
  • wearing shoes made of natural materials that allow proper ventilation
  • allowing shoes to dry completely before each use
  • removing the shoes when possible
  • wearing socks that wick moisture away from the skin
  • changing the socks daily or more often, if they become wet
  • washing socks between uses
  • applying antiperspirant to the feet before bed and washing it off in the morning

Additional lifestyle tips

To control excessive sweating and increase comfort, especially in hot weather, a person might try:

  • wearing loose clothing made from lightweight fabrics
  • staying hydrated
  • reducing anxiety, which can increase sweating
  • avoiding medications that increase sweating
  • avoiding workouts during peak sun hours

Anyone with excessive sweating should make an appointment. The doctor may make a referral to a dermatologist, who will do diagnostic tests to determine the cause.

Some people have excessive sweating as a side effect of medication. In this case, a person can speak to their doctor about changing the drug or the dosage.

Below, we answer common questions about hyperhidrosis.

Can hyperhidrosis go away?

Primary hyperhidrosis does not usually go away. According to research from 2016, 88% of participants with the condition said their symptoms stayed the same or worsened with time. Surgical procedures can cure the condition, while other treatments help reduce the symptoms.

For people with secondary hyperhidrosis, this depends on the underlying cause and the treatment they receive.

What causes hyperhidrosis?

Among the many health factors that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis are menopause, certain medications, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. Anyone who is concerned, or who is experiencing other bothersome symptoms, may wish to contact a doctor.

Is there a link with mental health?

Depression and anxiety may be associated with hyperhidrosis. In a 2016 study, 21.3% of participants with primary hyperhidrosis had anxiety, and 27.2% had depression. Excessive sweating is a known symptom of social anxiety disorder.

In some cases, it may be unclear whether mental health symptoms result from or cause excessive sweating.

Can cancer cause excessive sweating?

Certain tumors can cause excessive sweating. These include pheochromocytomas and lymphomas, as well as adrenal cancer and lung cancer.

Can heart problems cause excessive sweating?

Hyperhidrosis can be a sign of heart disease. And research suggests that doctors may not always recognize this link. If a person experiences a sudden onset of excessive sweating, they should receive medical attention.

Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating, and there are two types: primary and secondary. Secondary hyperhidrosis results from an underlying medical condition or is a side effect of medication. Primary hyperhidrosis has no identifiable cause.

A range of treatments can help, including antiperspirants, aluminum chloride creams, and anticholinergic medications.

Hyperhidrosis that is particularly severe or resistant to other treatments may require iontophoresis, Botox injections, or a surgical intervention.

Because it can signal a heart condition, anyone who has a sudden onset of excessive sweating should receive medical care.