What is Hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition categorized by an individual’s production of sweat in excess of what is needed by the body for regulating it's internal temperature. There are two main forms of hyperhidrosis: primary focal hyperhidrosis, and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, which is medically known as diaphoresis. Many people worry about whether hyperhidrosis is bad for their health, the symptom of excessive sweating is not dangerous, but if you have secondary hyperhidrosis, the underlying cause might be.

Primary focal hyperhidrosis is categorized by profuse sweating in a single area or in a few specific areas of the body for an indefinite period of time. It typically starts in adolescence or during early adulthood. People who suffer from it often needed help as kids who due to excessive sweating, whether or not they knew they had hyperhidrosis. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is not a result of any other disease or disorder - the excessive sweating itself is the disorder.

On the other hand, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is categorized by profuse sweating across the entire body or large sections of the body (the entire upper or lower back, the legs, the arms, the abdomen). Whereas primary focal hyperhidrosis starts affecting a person early in life, and typically accompanies an individual for the course of their life, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis can start at any time in a person’s life. It is most often a symptom of an underlying disorder. Several diseases and conditions can cause secondary hyperhidrosis, so it is important to investigate when someone has it. There are many causes of excessive sweating that result in secondary hyperhidrosis that may be dangerous like: Parkinson’s, Shingles, Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. it is important you seek medical counsel if you develop symptoms of secondary generalized hyperhidrosis since it may be indicative of a greater problem. Secondary hyperhidrosis can also be caused by certain medicines.

Factors to Consider When Self-Diagnosing Hyperhidrosis:

Although a trained medical professional - like a dermatologist with hyperhidrosis experience - would be able to provide the most detailed help in diagnosing your specific case of hyperhidrosis, evaluating the conditions around your sweat, based on the following four parameters, will help you gain a basis for understanding whether your own sweating is indicative of hyperhidrosis.

1. Temperature and Weather

First and foremost, an individual should be cognizant of whether or not they sweat in response to high temperatures in the surrounding environment. Since sweat is produced primarily as a means to cool the body via thermoregulation, all people should sweat when the temperature is high. Typically, the higher the temperature, the more sweat produced to keep the body cool. However, the first sign of both primary and secondary hyperhidrosis is whether or not your body sweats even when the temperature is at a comfortable, or even cool, level. For people with hyperhidrosis, the sweat glands are overactive because they are receiving and reacting to too many synaptic signals from the central nervous system. Due to the fact that these synaptic signals are sent regardless of temperature, gauging the temperature of the environment when sweating occurs is a strong indicator of potential hyperhidrosis.

2. Environmental Triggers

In addition to temperature, a person should be cognizant of whether or not other environmental triggers are causing excessive sweating on a repeated basis. For example, situations that are anxiety producing like meeting new people, anticipating handshakes, preparing for major assignments or tests, and public speaking may prompt an individual’s hyperhidrosis to worsen. This is because hyperhidrosis and anxiety are closely related. When thinking of your own sweatiest moments, are they tied to a specific set of conditions? If so, you may have primary focal hyperhidrosis that is triggered by those specific conditions. However, an important distinction between hyperhidrosis and stress sweating due to anxiety must be made; just because an individual sweats in a specific situation does not mean that person has hyperhidrosis. Most people will sweat a little before a business meeting, and many people find the idea of a public speech to be intimidating. The important distinction is to, once again, determine whether or not your body is producing sweat to aid with thermoregulation (i.e. keeping you cool and calm when you become a little worried before an event) or producing sweat at an excessive and uncontrollable rate. It is important to understand why humans sweat in order to determine if your sweat is excessive or not.

3. Timing of Your Sweat

The third factor to evaluate in order to tell if a person’s sweating is normal, indicitive of primary focal hyperhidrosis, or indicative of secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is the legnth of time a person has been experiencing increased sweating. The following three scenarios evaluate the legnth of time sweating occurs, the temperature, and any environmental triggers to suggest whether or not a person has hyperhidrosis.

Scenario 1:

If an individual has been sweating in response to the high temperatures, sweats an appropriate amount to cool the body, and has been sweating in this fashion over the course of their lifetime, then the individual is most likely is not suffering from hyperhidrosis.

Scenario 2:

If an individual has been sweating in response to both high temperatures and low temperatures, sweats an amount greater than what is needed to cool the body, sweats a much more when triggered by an environmental stimuli, sweats in one specific area or areas more than any other area (the hands, the feet, the head/face, or the underarms), and has been sweating in this fashion for their adult life, the individual most likely is producing sweat as a result of primary focal hyperhidrosis.

Scenario 3:

If an individual has been sweating in response to any temperatures, sweats more than needed to cool the body, sweats across large portions of the body, and has just recently developed the sweating issue, then the individual is most likely suffering from secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. This type of sweating is known as diaphoresis.

If you think you are suffering from this condition there are many ways to manage your sweat and there many things learn about hyperhidrosis that can help you treat it in the future.

Sometimes people do suffer from other types of hyperhidrosis that are less common. One of these types of hyperhidrosis is called compensatory sweating, it occurs after a person udergoes a surgery called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, which is used to treat primary focal hyperhidrosis. You can tell if you have this type of hyperhidrosis by noting whether you have had that type of surgery and evaluating the type of sweating you now suffer from. People with compensatory sweating usually experience more generalized sweating on a different area of the body, usually the trunk, than they experienced prior to surgery.

Another type of hyperhidrosis is called Gustatory sweating. This type of sweating occurs while someone is eating. It is usually caused by trauma to the face which can be caused by a variety of factors, like a surgery or an injury. Gustatory sweating is quite uncommon, but it does happen.

Are you still curious about whether you have hyperhidrosis? Find out with this simple test.

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