What is Hyperhidrosis?
If you’re suffering from excessive sweating, then you probably feel like you are alone in your misery. However, this condition, technically known as hyperhidrosis, is common enough that, according to WebMD, it affects two to three percent of Americans. Healthline puts this estimate at 4.8 percent. Actually, there are even two different variations of it. Axillary hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating in the underarm area, and it normally starts in late adolescence. Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis affects the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet, and its onset is normally in the early teens.
As explained by Check Your Sweat, sweating is a normal biological function that helps to prevent your body from overheating. However, hyperhidrosis involves sweating to an extent beyond what is needed for cooling the body. With normal sweating, nerves in the body activate the sweat glands in response to certain stimuli, such as exposure to hot air temperatures or physical exertion. Excessive sweating most likely occurs as a result of the sweat glands overreacting to these stimuli.
Unfortunately, hyperhidrosis is not typically a mild condition. Check Your Sweat also documents that it produces four to five times as much sweat as is normal in response to heat or stress. Of all people who have the condition, 65 percent have the axillary (underarm) form of it. A Further distinction should be made between primary hyperhidrosis, which is a problem by itself that is not caused by any other condition, and secondary hyperhidrosis, which is either a symptom of another medical condition or a side effect of a medication.
Impact of Hyperhidrosis
Regrettably, Check Your Sweat further reports that almost half of people with hyperhidrosis wait for years before seeing a doctor about it. Whatever the reasons for waiting, it is not because the condition does not cause any distress. In a recent study, 85 percent of people suffering from hyperhidrosis reported being embarrassed by it, and 71 percent were anxious because of it.
The International Hyperhidrosis Society provides a frightening summary of the research on the degree of difficulty and emotional trauma caused by the condition. Among patients treated for axillary hyperhidrosis, 90 percent were impacted emotionally by it, and more than 70 percent had to change clothes multiple times daily. In another survey of this patient population, more than 50 percent felt less confidence, 38 percent had problems with daily activities, 34 percent were unhappy, and 20 percent were depressed.
Among patients with palmoplantar hyperhidrosis being evaluated for a sympathectomy, 90 percent experienced social embarrassment, and 40 percent had related psychological problems. Among those preparing to have the procedure, 77 percent avoided shaking hands, and 17 percent had to wear gloves to accomplish certain tasks. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, a sympathectomy is a procedure wherein “a surgeon cuts or clamps a deep nerve that runs up and down along the spine.” This is meant to stop the nerve signals involved in the condition.
An anecdotal account reported by the International Hyperhidrosis Society involved a college professor whose students made bets with each other on whether his sweat stain would reach his belt during class. As summarized by Medicine Net, “Sweating is embarrassing, stains clothes, and may complicate business and social interactions. Excessive sweat can have serious practical consequences, like making it difficult to hold a pen, grip a steering wheel or shake hands.” WebMD adds that it “ruins romance.” Check Your Sweat notes that, while sweat by itself does not have an odor, body odor results when it mixes with bacteria on the skin.
Treatment for Hyperhidrosis
If you are a man with hyperhidrosis and suffering from the described symptoms, then you probably do not want to have to just live with it, even though many do. On the other hand, some treatment options, such as invasive surgery, may not be desirable. Non-invasive Botox injections may offer a preferable option.
SkinViva explains that hyperhidrosis patients receiving Botox get a series of small, shallow injections in the affected area. While pain is normally minimal, ice or anesthetic creams can be used as needed. Alternative explanations for excessive sweating (secondary hyperhidrosis) must be ruled out in advance.
Botox works at the nerve level by blocking applicable receptors from receiving acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that causes muscles to contract. The nerves will continue to signal for movement, but the tissue will not get this signal. Accordingly, the glands do not produce sweat.
The effects of the treatment should be noticeable within two to five days, with the maximum impact seen within two weeks. Because the body will eventually grow new receptors to replace the ones targeted by the treatment, the benefits of a single treatment will ultimately wear off. However, a round of Botox will typically last for about eight months and may last up to a year. Botox is only available by prescription, but, when administered by a credentialed doctor, it is known to be safe.