Hyperhidrosis is a skin disorder that causes people to sweat in excess of what is needed by the body. It is suspected that nearly 3% of the population struggles with the condition, making it quite common. While there are a few different types of hyperhidrosis, the two most common kinds are primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is the most common type and it produces excessive sweating on specific areas of the body like the hands, feet, face, armpits, and sometimes other areas, like the groin. It is a lifelong condition and typically shows up during puberty. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying condition or medication and it tends to cause all over sweating and can show up suddenly. Regardless of which type of hyperhidrosis a person has, the effects of producing too much sweat can cause other secondary health complications. It is important to know that hyperhidrosis is not dangerous, but it can cause some unfortunate health related issues. Here are some of the most common complications of hyperhidrosis and what you can do about them:
One of the most profound effects that hyperhidrosis has on people is how it affects them emotionally and socially. This is because the nature of the disorder is embarrassing and it can make people feel isolated. Specifically, hyperhidrosis is known to affect several aspects of daily life like emotional well-being, interpersonal relationships, leisure activities, self-esteem, personal hygiene, and work. All of these are important facets of a person’s life and because hyperhidrosis disrupts them, it makes sense that hyperhidrosis can lead to anxiety and depression. One large study published in the Journal of Dermatologic Clinics stated that 63% of people with hyperhidrosis reported feeling depressed or unhappy as a result of the condition and 74% had less confidence than they would like. While these statistics may sound daunting, when hyperhidrosis was addressed with proper medical treatment a significant number of people saw significant emotional improvement.
One of the most common skin issues that can come about from hyperhidrosis is called maceration. Maceration is the name for skin that is mushy and wet from constant exposure to sweat and moisture. Skin that is macerated is usually lighter in color and appears wrinkly. Hyperhidrosis usually causes mild cases of maceration which can usually be treated by exposing skin to the air and keeping the affected area dry. While maceration itself is not physically dangerous, it can lead to delayed wound healing, susceptibility to infection, discomfort, pain, and skin breakdown. This is why it is imperative to keep skin dry and clean as much as possible.
Hyperhidrosis can lead to a higher likelihood of developing a few types of infections. These include bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. One study published by the American Academy of Dermatology found that patients with hyperhidrosis had a 30% chance of developing a skin infection of any type compared to only 12% of people from the general population. This is a significantly higher risk. Maceration causes skin to be less effective as a barrier and viral and bacterial infections can enter the body more readily. Wet conditions also provide an ideal environment for fungal infections to grow. The most common types of fungal infections that people with hyperhidrosis have to deal with are athlete’s foot which affects the feet and jock itch which affects the groin. Keeping skin as dry as possible and using topical, and sometimes, oral medications can keep these conditions in check.
Warts are another skin condition that is more likely to appear as a result of hyperhidrosis. When skin is exposed to moisture it begins to break down and becomes a less effective barrier for keeping infections out. Unfortunately, some of the infections that can affect the skin cause warts to grow. Most cases of warts are caused by a type of virus called HPV. It is suggested that people with warts keep them covered to prevent infecting others, that they treat them with an appropriate medication and that they do not shave over top of warts. Luckily, they are easily treatable.
Body odor is an unfortunately common side effect of hyperhidrosis. Medically, body odor is referred to as bromhidrosis. Sweat is actually odorless when it is released from the body but it becomes stinky when bacteria on the surface of the skin digest proteins and create foul smelling byproducts. Body odor tends to be the worst when produced by the skin of the armpits and groin. This is because those areas have apocrine sweat glands which create a thicker type of sweat. Hyperhidrosis feet that have been enclosed in socks and shoes for a long period of time also tend to create a worse smell than other parts of the body. You can cut down on body odor by keeping skin as clean and dry as possible, although this can be tricky for those with hyperhidrosis. There are other ways to reduce sweating and body odor that can also help.
While economic consequences may not directly impact health, they certainly impact a person's lifestyle. According to several quality of life studies published in the journal of Dermatologic Clinics hyperhidrosis can have a significant impact in the workplace. This can manifest due to social anxiety or be a direct result of hyperhidrosis. For example, a person with severe palmar hyperhidrosis may struggle to manipulate objects and with activities like holding a pen. These issues can lead to lower work performance. Unfortunately, certain hyperhidrosis treatments are not covered by insurance at this time and this can also deplete hyperhidrosis patients financially. Luckily, treatments can improve a person’s economic position and relieve some of the burden.
The complications associated with hyperhidrosis can be frustrating and make the condition even more daunting to deal with. However, it is important that you don’t lose hope! Hyperhidrosis is highly treatable and most of its complications are fairly simple and can be reversed.
What Can You Do About It?
If you are struggling with the complications that come along with hyperhidrosis there are several things you can do. The first thing most doctors recommend is trying an over-the-counter antiperspirant. Antiperspirant enables the skin to produce less sweat by blocking the sweat glands. There are several different types of antiperspirant to choose from that can be used for a variety of needs. Some brands, like Carpe have antiperspirants lotions that are specifically designed for sensitive skin, while others have spray on or roll on versions of intense strength products. If you haven’t had luck with antiperspirant alone, there are several other medical interventions that can improve your symptoms. These include procedures like iontophoresis, botox injections, oral medications, and even surgery. If you are struggling, don’t give up! There are many options and new treatments are being developed every day.
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
- Common Complications of Hyperhidrosis. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/common-complications-of-hyperhidrosis
- Everything You Need to Know About Macerated Skin. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/macerated-skin
- Walling. (2009). Study finds that patients with excessive sweating condition are more likely to develop skin infections. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/study-finds-that-patients-with-excessive-sweating-condition-are-more-likely-to-develop-skin-infections.
- How to heal warts more quickly and prevent new ones. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/warts/how-to-heal-warts