What Is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is characterized by sweat that is produced in excess of what is necessary for thermoregulation (the ability to maintain a healthy temperature). Sweating is a perfectly natural and necessary function the body uses to cool itself down. However, if you have hyperhidrosis, you’ll start sweating even when your body isn’t overheating. Sweating that has no apparent cause is known to doctors as diaphoresis.
If you have hyperhidrosis, you can experience sweating on several parts of the body, including in the hands, underarms, face, scalp, and feet. Some people even experience excessive groin sweat and sweating under the breasts. The type of hyperhidrosis you have will determine whether you experience sweating all over your body or if it is just in specific areas. Some people with hyperhidrosis sweat in several different areas simultaneously, while others only experience excessive sweating at one location - it is a highly individualized condition. Hands, feet, and underarms are the parts of the body that are most likely to be affected by hyperhidrosis.
People who suffer from hyperhidrosis have the same number and size of sweat glands as people who don’t have the condition. Their sweat glands are just overactive, compared to what they would normally be.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis?
If you’re wondering how to tell whether you have hyperhidrosis , here is a checklist of symptoms for you to review.
- Noticeable sweat:Even when you’re sitting down and taking it easy, you’ll notice your clothes are wet. On your bare skin, you’ll often see beads of sweat.
- You leave a trail in your wake:You might not just see sweat on your clothes and skin. You might be transferring it to everything you touch, including door knobs, keyboards, and papers that you touch.
- Your skin is white and peeling:You might notice white and peeling skin from the constant moisture.
- You have skin infections:Skin infections can happen to people who don’t have hyperhidrosis. However, if you have repeated skin infections due to constant moisture, like athlete’s foot, you might suspect hyperhidrosis.
Different dermatologists characterize hyperhidrosis in various ways. What’s important is the fact that if you are uncomfortable with the level of sweat that your body produces (wherever it’s being produced), there are solutions that are available. You have access to over-the-counter topical treatments, prescription options, and medical procedures that can help. If you are interested in medical solutions, you can book an appointment with your dermatologist and learn how to manage hyperhidrosis with a dermatologist.
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is hyperhidrosis?”, It’s important to understand the different types of hyperhidrosis. The approaches used to understand and treat hyperhidrosis are very different depending on the type you have.
The Two Main Types of Hyperhidrosis
There are two main types of hyperhidrosis. There are a few other types that are much less common, but the vast majority of people will either have primary focal hyperhidrosis or secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. Let’s look at each type of hyperhidrosis and what they entail.
Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis
Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis (PFH) is by far the most common type, affecting up to 90 percent of people who have hyperhidrosis. The cause is not well understood, but it is thought to have a genetic component.
People with primary focal hyperhidrosis only sweat in particular areas like the hands, feet, armpits, face, and groin. Sweat will occur on both sides of the body in the same place. For example, if someone has one sweaty hand it is likely their other hand will also be sweaty. Additionally, the sweat will usually occur in more than one area — one common problem with PFH is that the sweating occurs on hands and feet simultaneously. It can also affect other body parts individually or simultaneously, it just depends on a person’s specific situation.
Symptoms usually begin in childhood or adolescence and tend to last for a person’s entire lifetime. There is evidence that primary focal hyperhidrosis is hereditary, meaning it has a genetic component and often runs in families.
Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis
While primary focal hyperhidrosis appears to be something you’re born with,secondary generalized hyperhidrosis (SGH) is a condition that shows up during adulthood. Think of SGH as an uninvited guest who arrives on your doorstep with no warning. Unfortunately, it may be a little harder to get rid of than an uninvited guest.
You might suddenly wonder why you’ve been so sweaty lately. And you’d be right to wonder, because this type of hyperhidrosis can point to an underlying problem.
When someone has secondary hyperhidrosis the biggest problem isn’t the hyperhidrosis – it’s the disease or condition that might be causing it. That’s why it’s known as secondary hyperhidrosis. The true cause may be a medical condition and the symptom of that condition is hyperhidrosis.
Before you panic that you’re suffering from a mysterious disease, keep in mind the source of this type of hyperhidrosis can also be a medication. Many common medications can cause hyperhidrosis as a side effect.
Unlike primary focal hyperhidrosis, the sweating from secondary hyperhidrosis tends to occur all over the body. This is a telltale sign of the condition.
Unlike primary hyperhidrosis, this condition doesn’t have to be permanent. If the instigating condition is found and treated, it can fix the hyperhidrosis. It may take a little work, but you CAN kick this guest off your porch.
If you are concerned that your hyperhidrosis might have an underlying cause, schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor and find out.
The Impact of Hyperhidrosis
While hyperhidrosis isn’t particularly dangerous physically, it can be embarrassing for those who suffer from it. It won’t just give you clammy skin – the sweat can literally drip off. That can cause a great deal of anxiety for those who experience it.
Shaking hands can become a nightmare because you may be so self-conscious about how sweaty your palms are. Your socks can become wet even if you don’t do any exercise. It can make basic human experiences extremely stressful.
Unfortunately, hyperhidrosis is more serious than just uncomfortable sweating. Up to a third of people who deal with excessive sweating from hyperhidrosis say that they are constantly bothered by their sweating. One study done in the US found that 75% of respondents reported that hyperhidrosis negatively impacted their social, emotional, and mental health. That’s a lot of people who are suffering! Due to these issues, hyperhidrosis and anxiety often go hand in hand. Many people find it helpful to utilize anxiety reduction methods that are known to lessen excessive sweating.
Hyperhidrosis is hard for adults to deal with, so it is especially important to find help for kids with hyperhidrosis.
Some people refer to hyperhidrosis as a silent handicap because of the impact it has upon the lives of those who live with it. It can deeply impact their confidence and hyperhidrosis can even keep people from doing the things they love most.
Is Hyperhidrosis Common?
It is thought that about 3% of the US population struggles with hyperhidrosis. In other countries the percentage of the population that has it is even higher. Other sources have stated that up to 5% of the population might even have it! This means that hyperhidrosis is a very common issue.
While most doctor’s offices are familiar with managing hyperhidrosis, they generally don’t see a lot of patients who suffer from it. However, because hyperhidrosis is such an embarrassing and overlooked condition, many individuals avoid reporting the issue to their doctor. This means that the number of people who have hyperhidrosis might even be higher than we currently think.
Those with family members who have this ailment are more likely to get it – making it an inherited condition. If you have a family member teased for their sweaty hands constantly, there could be a chance they have hyperhidrosis. 
What Causes Hyperhidrosis?
Doctors don’t truly understand what causes primary focal hyperhidrosis yet. One theory is that particular nerves that control the amount of sweat overreact or malfunction. That malfunction can cause the excessive sweating that can be life-changing for those who suffer from it.
Since hyperhidrosis affects so many people, researchers are now shifting into full gear to discover the causes of excessive sweating so they can develop better treatments. Future treatments and research for hyperhidrosis are being developed more rapidly than ever before.
What Conditions Can Cause Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis?
Many diseases and medical conditions can cause hyperhidrosis. However, just because you have one of the conditions listed below this paragraph doesn’t mean you’ll develop hyperhidrosis.
Here are some of the more common conditions that may be causing the hyperhidrosis you have developed as an adult.
- A febrile illness
- Heart failure
- Alcoholism - Alcohol can cause excessive sweating when someone is intoxicated, withdrawing, or in someone with an intolerance.
- Lymphoma and some other cancers and tumors.
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
There are also several types of common medications that cause hyperhidrosis as a side effect. So, if you are on medication and you begin experiencing new or increased amounts of sweating mention it to your doctor. Some of these medications include antidepressants, painkillers, blood pressure medications and many others.a 
If you think you might have secondary generalized hyperhidrosis it is very important that you speak to a doctor. Many of the things that cause it can be resolved, and it could be a sign of a more serious problem. Don’t panic, but it is wise to look into the reason you are sweating more.
What Are the Treatments for Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis?
If you are diagnosed with primary focal hyperhidrosis, there are many things you can do.These are the existing treatments for hyperhidrosis, but new treatments are currently being explored by scientists:
- Antiperspirants:There are many over-the-counter antiperspirants that can be very useful when trying to curb sweat. If a regular antiperspirant isn’t cutting it for you, ask your doctor to write a prescription for a stronger one. You can apply antiperspirant to places other than just your underarms. Use it on your hands, hairline, or feet as well. There are even antiperspirants for the face and groin that are made specifically for sensitive areas.
- An Iontophoresis machine:This medical device sends low-voltage currents into a pan of water where your hands or feet are sitting. The electricity can lessen the activity of your sweat glands, at least for a while. However, it can take up to 10 sessions with the iontophoresis machine to deactivate your sweat glands. You may need to use this machine up to three times a week in the beginning and one treatment can take up to 40 minutes. Although iontophoresis as a treatment for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis may give your hands and feet a much needed break, the iontophoresis machine is anything but convenient. Iontophoresis really does work, but patients have to be willing to keep up with a regular treatment regimen for it to work successfully.
- Botox:If other treatments aren’t enough in your, you might need Botox injections. Botox can be particularly useful for axillary hyperhidrosis, but botox can also be a treatment for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis. Botox can provide up to 6 months of reduced sweating. If you’re going to pursue this route, you should look for someone who is experienced at doing Botox injections in the underarms to ensure the right area is targeted.
- Anticholinergics:A few oral medications can for hyperhidrosis can reduce the amount of sweat you produce by stopping your sweat glands from working. Most commonly patients are prescribed anticholinergics like glycopyrrolate or oxybutynin as a treatment for hyperhidrosis. These medications also have several side effects, including heart palpitations, blurry vision, and dry mouth.
- ETS Surgery:An endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) is a surgical treatment for primary focal hyperhidrosis. It is an operation where an individual actually has the nerve endings that transfer sensory information to the sweat glands destroyed. Since no known successful reversal of an ETS surgery has ever been recorded, this option isn’t usually on the table unless the other treatments have failed. As with any surgery, it can be risky. There is also a type of surgery called an endoscopic lumbar sympathectomy which is used to treat plantar hyperhidrosis, but this surgery can be very dangerous and is almost never recommended.
Undoubtedly, hyperhidrosis can be a hard condition to cope with. Until recently, the lack of research into hyperhidrosis had made hyperhidrosis difficult to manage. Thankfully, however, new treatments and awareness has made hyperhidrosis much easier to handle. Keep trying treatments until you find what works for you and remember that you are not alone in suffering with this condition. It’s just a matter of figuring out what you can do to control your sweat instead of your sweat controlling you!
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