Sweating is an automatic process that helps to regulate a person's body temperature. However, some people experience hyperhidrosis, which means they sweat more than is necessary.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis: primary and secondary. Secondary hyperhidrosis occurs as a result of an underlying medical condition or as a side effect of certain medications. Primary hyperhidrosis has no identifiable cause.
Excessive sweating is often uncomfortable and inconvenient.
However, there is a variety of treatment options for people who experience excessive sweating. This article outlines a range of treatments and provides some sweat management tips that people can try at home.
The treatment for hyperhidrosis depends on its severity. Doctors typically take a step by step approach to treat the condition.
Treatments for mild to moderate hyperhidrosis
As an initial treatment option, a doctor may suggest an over-the-counter (OTC) aluminum chloride hexahydrate cream, such as Drysol. People can apply the cream nightly for the first 3 or 4 nights, followed by occasional nighttime applications as needed.
Some people may require additional medications to control their hyperhidrosis. A doctor may prescribe topical anticholinergic medications, such as glycopyrrolate, or oral anticholinergic medications, such as oxybutynin.
Treatments for severe or resistant hyperhidrosis
Particularly severe hyperhidrosis may not respond to initial standard treatments.
In such cases, a doctor may recommend iontophoresis or botulinum toxin A (Botox) injections.
Iontophoresis 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 how iontophoresis works, but it may reduce sweating in the hands and feet.
Some doctors recommend adding an anticholinergic medication to the water to help reduce sweating.
Currently, hands and feet remain the most common areas for iontophoresis treatment. However, researchers are now developing iontophoresis that doctors can use to treat other areas of the body.
If Botox injections or iontophoresis are unsuccessful, a doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to reduce sweating.
One option is a sympathectomy. This type of surgery involves damaging the nerve supply to sweat glands to reduce sweating. The sympathetic nerve within the chest cavity controls sweating in the body. Alternatively, some people may opt to have the affected sweat glands surgically removed, which is less invasive than a sympathectomy.
Unfortunately, people with hyperhidrosis may experience recurrences after surgery.
The following tips can help people to manage excessive sweating at home.
Keeping a sweat journal
Certain situations may trigger episodes of excessive sweating. Keeping a journal allows people to log episodes of sweating so that they can identify their triggers. People may then choose to avoid those triggers where possible.
Avoiding certain foods
Some foods may cause excessive sweating.
People living with hyperhidrosis should avoid or limit the following foods:
- monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- hot sauce or spicy foods
- spices, such as curry or cumin
People who sweat excessively should avoid using deodorants, which merely mask the smell of sweat. People should instead look for antiperspirants, which can reduce sweating. The best time to use an antiperspirant is at nighttime.
Some doctors recommend using prescription antiperspirants on dry underarms every night for 3 to 5 nights. People may then be able to reduce prescription antiperspirant use to once or twice a week.
Tips for combating sweaty feet
The following tips may help to reduce excessive sweating or wetness of the feet:
- wearing sandals where possible
- wearing shoes made of natural materials, which allow proper ventilation of the feet
- allowing shoes to dry completely before each wear
- removing shoes when possible
- wearing socks that wick moisture away from the skin
- changing socks daily or more often if they become wet
- washing socks before wearing them again
- applying antiperspirant to the feet before bed, and washing it off in the morning
A person who experiences excessive sweating should make an appointment with their doctor. They may refer the person to a dermatologist who will carry out diagnostic tests to determine the cause.
Some people may experience excessive sweating as a side effect of certain medications. If this is the case, a person can speak to their doctor about changing the drug or the dosage.
If a person does not know the cause of the hyperhidrosis, they can discuss the potential treatment options with their doctor.
Sweat glands produce sweat within the skin. People have two types of sweat glands.
Eccrine sweat glands are found all over the body and are involved in regulating body temperature. When body temperature rises, the sweat glands release water. As the water evaporates off the skin, it lowers the person's blood temperature, cooling the person down.
Apocrine sweat glands are larger and are mostly located in the underarms and genitals. Sweat that comes from apocrine sweat glands develops a foul smell when exposed to bacteria. These glands become active during puberty.
Overstimulation of the eccrine glands causes excessive sweating. People are more likely to experience excessive sweating in the underarm area, and on the face, palms, and soles of the feet. These areas have the highest concentration of eccrine glands.
Researchers estimate that hyperhidrosis affects around 3% of the population of the United States.
Secondary hyperhidrosis can occur as a side effect of some medications, including:
People living with the following conditions may also experience secondary hyperhidrosis:
- Parkinson's disease
- other neurological disorders
- tumors, such as pheochromocytoma and lymphoma
People with bromhidrosis, or excessive body odor (BO) perspiration, also experience excessive sweating. However, this type of sweat has a foul smell due to bacteria breaking it down.
There are two types of bromhidrosis.
Apocrine bromhidrosis occurs when bacteria break down sweat released by the apocrine sweat glands.
Eccrine bromhidrosis occurs when bacteria break down keratin that has been softened by sweat from the eccrine glands. Keratin is a protein found in the skin. Eating certain foods may lead to eccrine bromhidrosis.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis: primary and secondary. Secondary hyperhidrosis is usually the result of an underlying medical condition or a side effect of a medication. Primary hyperhidrosis has no identifiable cause.
Doctors usually take a stepwise approach to treating excessive sweating. Antiperspirants, aluminum chloride creams, or anticholinergic medications can work well for some people.
Hyperhidrosis that is particularly severe or resistant may require more aggressive treatment. In such cases, iontophoresis, Botox injections, or surgical interventions may be necessary.