Understanding and treating excessive perspiration
Exercise or a hot environment can increase your body temperature. When you experience a rise or fall in your body temperature, the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that acts as an internal thermostat, senses the change in internal temperature and takes action to protect your body. The brain directs more of your blood flow to the skin and signals the body to begin sweating. When sweat on the skin evaporates, it takes the heat with it making perspiration or sweat the primary tool the body uses to control its internal temperature.
But what does it mean when your body produces more sweat than it needs for effective body cooling? Maybe you are sitting calmly at your desk or waiting for an appointment and suddenly you are drenched in perspiration. Or, perhaps you have just started warming up for a workout and already your t-shirt is soaking. It’s worrisome, it’s embarrassing and in extreme cases it can cause a person to limit or avoid social interaction.
Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is a common disorder, which affects an estimated 2-3% of Americans, who suffer from excessive sweating of the underarms or of the palms and soles of the feet. Underarm problems tend to start in late adolescence, while palm and sole sweating often begin earlier, around age 13. Untreated, these problems may continue throughout life.
Causes of Excessive Perspiration
Excessive sweating can be a warning sign of a medical condition or a side effect of a medication. It is also common in people who are overweight or out of shape. However, most cases of excessive sweating are harmless. Some common causes of hyperhidrosis are:
• Frey’s syndrome is a condition in which sweating occurs from just one side of the face when certain foods are eaten. It occurs after surgery on, or injury near, the saliva-producing glands.
• Medications taken for endocrine problems, diabetes, and thyroid disease can also trigger excessive sweating.
• So can certain high blood pressure medicines, as well as some antidepressant medications.
• In addition, heavy sweating can be caused by an over-active thyroid, low blood pressure, infections, certain cancers, heart or lung disease, menopause, and sometimes even a stroke.
Did you know…the human body has two to four million sweat glands?
Treatments for Excessive Perspiration
It is important to discuss your concerns about excessive perspiration with your doctor to determine what is the most appropriate course of treatment. There are a number of treatments that may be successful in helping get the amount of perspiration your body produces under control.
Because the level of perspiration and the amount of disruption to daily life differ among sufferers of hyperhidrosis, your physician may want to start with a conservative approach, such as a “professional strength” or prescription antiperspirant to see if it is effective before prescribing other medical, procedural or surgical treatments. Among the current options for treating excessive sweating are:
• Medications to prevent sweat glands from being stimulated
• Botox, FDA-approved for excess sweating in 2004.
• Iontophoresis, an FDA-approved procedure using electricity to block sweat glands
• miraDry, a handheld device delivers electromagnetic energy to the sweat glands approved by the FDA in 2011.
• Surgery to turn off the nerve signals that trigger excess sweating.
When should you see a doctor?
When you suffer from hyperhidrosis your body’s cooling mechanism is so overactive that it produces four or five times the amount of sweat that you need. Because people have different “sweat needs,” it is difficult for doctors to say how much sweat is too much, or enough to warrant a diagnosis of excessive sweating.
If you are worried about how much you sweat or if it is disrupting your life, you should see your primary care physician or a dermatologist. First, your doctor will want to rule out any medical condition that could be causing hyperhidrosis. While we don’t know all of the causes of excessive sweating, recent studies have shown that certain genes may play a role in hyperhidrosis, making it look more likely that it could well be an inherited condition. The majority of patients with primary hyperhidrosis (the type not caused by an underlying condition or medication) have a sibling or parent with the condition.
Excessive sweating is more than a nuisance. It can affect your self-confidence, job, and relationships. It might eventually control and undermine your ability to enjoy life. Some hyperhidrosis sufferers become anxious, emotionally stressed, socially withdrawn, and even depressed. It’s important to note that help is available. The symptoms of excessive sweating can be effectively treated. So see your doctor, get help and start living the life you deserve. It’s a “no sweat” decision you won’t regret.