Don’t Worry, That Clammy, Embarrassing Condition Can Be Treated
With autumn’s cool breezes, those of us who suffer through the summer with clammy, sweaty skin can breathe a sigh of relief, right? Usually. But if you find yourself still more than dewy when everyone else has broken out the corduroy, you may be experiencing more than a little hot flash.
Hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating – is a serious medical condition that afflicts an estimated three percent of us around the world – nearly 200 million sweaty souls. Sweating is normal, and necessary, to regulate our body temperatures when we get overheated. But when we sweat more than we need to stay cool, we experience hyperhidrosis. And although any site on the body can be affected, the most common places are the palms, soles of the feet, and underarms.
Yet because of lack of awareness, more than half of us are never diagnosed or treated. That’s a shame – the condition is eminently treatable, with everything from antiperspirants and electrically stimulated baths to Botox injections.
What causes excessive sweating? There are two scenarios, and both usually (but not always) start in childhood or adolescence. One form is caused by a medical condition – such as cancer, diabetes or menopause – or as a side effect of a medication. If you have this form, you even sweat while you’re sleeping. The other type is sweating not caused by other medical conditions, or a side effect of medication, and usually occurs in specific sites such as on the palms, soles of the feet, underarms, head or face. Good news – no sweaty nights for you.
Excessive sweating can cause tremendous emotional stress and anxiety, disrupting your entire life, from relationships and self-image to career choices and recreational activities. Chances are that you worry and suffer every day, spending hours dealing with the sweat – changing clothes, freshening up, stashing napkins or pads under your arms, bathing, and hiding under dark-colored, bulky clothes.
To add to the psychological trauma, excessive sweating also can cause painful or irritating skin problems, such as bacteria or fungal overgrowth, infections and even disintegration of the skin.
You needn’t sweat in silence, however – currently you have five treatment options. The first defense is topical antiperspirants and astringent salves that dry up the sweat glands. But they offer limited relief, and sweating returns if you stop using them.
Another treatment is iontophoresis and is commonly used to treat excessively sweaty feet. This involves putting your feet in a bath and then passing a gentle electrical current through the water. While iontophoresis works for some people, though it’s not clear why, treatment can be somewhat painful and take many sessions.
Medications such as prescription-strength antiperspirants and oral drugs such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs (for stress-induced sweating) also are used, but with only modest success. And, side effects such as swelling or blurred vision often limit their long-term usefulness.
An exciting, newer treatment is Botox, the same medication used to soften facial wrinkles. Botox injections work by blocking the nerve impulse to the sweat gland, reducing the gland’s over-activity. A series of injections in the affected area can last up to nine months.
In rare cases that don’t respond to the more conventional treatments, surgery to remove the offending sweat gland or interrupt the errant nerve signal may be an option. However, since it’s riskier and can cause permanent side effects and damage such as increased sweating in other areas or when eating, and reduced shoulder motion, patients should discuss all of the ramifications with their doctors before choosing this option.
So, don’t sweat it – literally. With proper treatment, you can leave behind the tissues and extra clothes, and do the wave worry-free.
Dr. Donald Sudy is Medical Director for ReGenesis Medical Spa and Wellness Center located at 4423 Sharon Road across from Southpark Mall. Specially trained in laser medicine and facial aesthetics, Dr. Sudy supervises all medical procedures at ReGenesis Medical Spa and Wellness Center. Call 704-362-2232 or visit [http://www.regenesismedicalspa.com] for more information.