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Hyperhidrosis

What is hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is simply excessive perspiration. It may cause social embarrassment for those who are affected.

Who gets hyperhidrosis?

Risk factors for hyperhidrosis include stress, excessive physical exertion, and hot weather. These factors may also make hyperhidrosis worse.

What causes hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is caused by over activity of sweat glands. Sweat glands may be triggered to produce excessive sweat because of genetic factors, anxiety, fever and infection, malignancy, hyperthyroidism, menopause, or medications such as narcotics. Many of these causes are very rare with the most common causes being genetic factors and anxiety. If the hyperhidrosis is localized to one body area, the cause is usually unknown.

What are the common symptoms of hyperhidrosis?

Signs and symptoms include heavy perspiration mainly under the arms or breasts, in the groin, or on the palms and soles; however, any body part may be involved. The skin overlying the area may be pink or bluish white. Sometimes an unpleasant odor will be present which is caused by bacteria in sweat and on the skin.

What can I do to control hyperhidrosis?

Controlling hyperhidrosis includes staying cool, controlling anxiety, frequent bathing and clothes changes, wearing cotton clothes, or shaving underarm hair. However, many people choose to use antiperspirants for prevention. If an underlying medical problem is the cause, treatment of the problem will help to stop hyperhidrosis. Rarely people have surgery to remove sweat glands from major sweat areas.

What medications are used to treat hyperhidrosis?

In general, topical medications are used to treat hyperhidrosis

Generalized hyperhidrosis treatments:

  1. Soap containing chlorhexidine followed by application of Antiperspirants containing aluminum chlorhydroxy complexes after bathing.

Localized hyperhidrosis treatments:

  1. If the hyperhidrosis affects only a few areas, you can apply a 20% solution of aluminum chloride in absolute ethyl alcohol or 4% salicylic acid gel base at nighttime.
  2. Cover it with saran wrap.
  3. Wash off the remaining salt in the morning.
  4. If the aluminum chloride is irritating you may try it without the polyethylene film or do it only every 2-3 nights.
  5. Be sure the skin is dry before application and free of inflammation or broken skin. Do not shave before application.
  6. Continue to treat as needed.

Medications with aluminum chloride:

  1. Drysol – Used on palms and soles. Contains 20% aluminum chloride.
  2. Xerac – Used to reduce night sweating on face, armpits, and groin. Only contains 6% aluminum chloride so it may be less irritating than Drysol.
  3. Maxim and Certain Dri – Over-the-counter antiperspirants with aluminum chloride as the active ingredient.
  4. Check to see if your own antiperspirant contains aluminum chloride.

Other options:

  1. Oral medications that suppress that production of sweat. Many times other side effects can occur from these medications such as dry eyes and mouth.
  2. BOTOX® has been proven to be extremely effective for both axillary and hand and foot hyperhidrosis. In some cases, one treatment led to remissions for up to 2 years. However, many insurance companies feel that this is cosmetic and will not pay for it. Check with your insurance company to see if this is an option.