1. What is Hyperhidrosis?
This means excessive sweating. Sweating is one of the most important ways in which the body loses heat, however, people with hyperhidrosis produce more sweat than needed to control their temperature.
Hyperhidrosis is a common problem for men and women and is estimated to affect 1-2% of the UK population.
If you have ever suffered with anxiety and then had sweaty armpits at an occasion you will know how upsetting this can be. People who suffer with this oversweating happens most days in winter as well as the summer. Often there is no body odour but just a damp patch that shows up and gets worse the more you think about it. People with hyperhidrosis can produce a large volume of sweat. This means that the hands, feet, chest or armpits (depending on which part of the body is affected) may be constantly damp. This may make normal everyday activities more difficult to carry out and it can cause embarrassment at work or socially. However, it is not true that hyperhidrosis cause’s body odour the smell that some people think is due to sweating is in fact caused by bacteria if sweat remains there for a long time
What is the cause of hyperhidrosis?
Although neurologic, metabolic, and other systemic diseases can sometimes cause excessive sweating, most cases occur in people who are otherwise healthy with normal sweat glands. Heat and emotions may trigger hyperhidrosis in some, but many who suffer from hyperhidrosis sweat nearly all the time, regardless of their mood or the weather.
There are two main types of hyperhidrosis:
Focal hyperhidrosis is the more common type involving excessive sweating on the feet, hands and in about 30 – 40% of cases, the armpits.
Generalised hyperhidrosis affects the whole body. It is much less common and is usually caused by another illness such as an infection, diabetes or when the thyroid gland is overactive. The excessive sweating usually stops when the illness is treated.
Examples of triggers include:
heat or cold
alcohol, coffee or tea, smoking, hot or spicy food
stress, anxiety or strong emotions
What can I do about hyperhidrosis?
Choose clothing that will keep you cool. Natural fibres are cool but they absorb sweat and can remain damp, some synthetic fibres are warm but they draw sweat away from the body and feel dry. Consider having a change of clothing available during the day.
Keep your work environment cool and well aired.
Avoid the food and drinks that trigger sweating. These will be different for everyone but you will probably know what causes problems for you.
Reduce stress, tension and anxiety. These are common problems for everyone, though people with hyperhidrosis have the extra difficulties of coping with sweating. Think abut how you can reduce stress during the day, plan your activities carefully and make time to relax.
Pay attention to your personal hygiene. Odour can be reduced by taking frequent showers. Although this will not be convenient for people who constantly sweat it is an effective and simple measure to take.
What treatment is available?
Treatment can be given by an injection into the skin. It is recommended for the treatment of auxiliary hyperhidrosis and it has been used for many years to treat muscle spasm affecting the eyes, face and neck.
It is a purified protein, botulinum toxin type A. When small doses are injected into the skin, it blocks the actions of the nerves that supply the eccrine glands, this prevents the glands from producing sweat. It blocks the nerve endings but over about 6-12 weeks new nerve endings grow to replace them. This means that the effects of treatment last for several months but eventually they will wear off.
What happens during treatment?
Using a very fine needle, your doctor will inject a small amount of a solution into 10 to 15 places about 1cm apart and spread evenly in each armpit. The treatment takes about 30 minutes and you should notice some change for the better within a week of your treatment.
Different people have different responses to treatment. In a clinical trial, sweat production was reduced by 83% one week after treatment. Furthermore, sweating was reduced by at least half in 95% of patients. Your next treatment can be given when the effects of the first course wear off, this usually happens after 4 to 7 months.
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