Understanding and Treating Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which a person sweats excessively, even under conditions when it is not normal to sweat. The frequency of sweating and the amount of sweating that occurs is excessive, and the person's face, feet, hands and underarms are often constantly clammy with perspiration, even to the point of having droplets of sweat present. This excessive level of sweating can be very disruptive to a person's life, making it difficult for them to work, interact with others, or engage in any kind of activities. A person who suffers from hyperhidrosis is often extremely self-conscious about the condition, and as a result may have a tendency to withdraw from normal daily activities.
Causes of Hyperhidrosis
Just as with normal sweating, the underlying cause of hyperhidrosis lies with the body's attempt to regulate its temperature. Under normal circumstances, this is accomplished with the sweat glands producing perspiration when the body needs to be cooled. However, in the case of this condition, the response of the sweat glands is extreme. There are actually two types of hyperhidrosis: focal and generalized. In the case of focal hyperhidrosis, the sweating usually only occurs when the person is awake. It generally affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and sometimes the underarms. The cause of focal hyperhidrosis is not known, but since it tends to run in families, there might be a genetic link. It often appears before age 20, and is not connected with any other conditions or illnesses.
Generalized hyperhidrosis often begins abruptly, and is usually connected with another condition or circumstance. It can be caused by the "hot flashes" of menopause, an overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, or other diseases. It can also be a side effect of medications which are being taken. The sweating can affect large areas of the body. In the case of generalized hyperhidrosis, the solution is generally to treat the underlying cause or adjust the medication that seems to be causing the problem.
Problems Caused by Hyperhidrosis
There can be a number of problems caused by the body's excessive production of sweat. Bacterial infections, warts, and fungal nail infections are often the direct result of the body constantly being damp with sweat. Prickly heat or other generalized rashes are also common, occurring when sweat becomes trapped due to blocked pores. There are also a lot of emotional and social problems that can be caused by hyperhidrosis, due to the person's embarrassment over their excessive sweating.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When treating hyperhidrosis, the doctor may perform a thermoregulatory sweat test, which can help to pinpoint the problem and determine its severity. In the case of generalized hyperhidrosis, the focus is usually on finding the underlying condition or medication that is causing the problem. However, if there is no underlying cause, then treatments could include prescription antiperspirants, prescription drugs, or even surgical procedures to remove sweat glands or cut the nerves. Other treatments include iontophoresis, which involves the use of low-level electrical current, and Botox injections to prevent the sweat glands from becoming activated by the nerves. Other means of coping with the condition include practicing relaxation techniques, wearing natural-fiber clothing, and regular bathing to help control bacteria.