Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis as it is formally known, occurs when the body’s sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. Whilst it's normal for the body to use sweat to regulate its temperature (during exercise, times of anxiety, or in warm climates for example) sufferers of hyperhidrosis will sweat excessively, far more than is necessary to maintain a normal temperature.
What effects does it have?
Excess sweating can occur at inappropriate times in many different areas of the body, and as well as being embarrassing, can cause a number of related problems for sufferers, such as:
- ruining clothes and shoes,
- causing body odour,
- instigating social anxiety,
- irritating, painful skin complaints.
Is it a permanent condition?
Hyperhidrosis does not occur temporarily. According to the Hyperhidrosis Support Group, it affects around 1% of the population, and those who do suffer from the condition experience it for many years, often from childhood. Affecting men and women, hyperhidrosis can be a debilitating condition, but sufferers should know that there are steps that they can take to reduce and even eradicate the problem.
What can be done about it?
There are a number of things that can be done to try to address the symptoms of hyperhidrosis. Some of these are preventative measures that seek to reduce or manage the symptoms, while others are more permanent and seek to cure the condition completely.
Most people when confronted with unwanted perspiration tend to use antiperspirants. An antiperspirant is an astringent which works by decreasing sweat secretion, and for normal amounts of perspiration these tend to work quite well. For the treatment of hyperhidrosis however, it's best to use an antiperspirant which contains aluminium chloride, which is an aluminium-based salt that reduces the amount of sweat on the skin's surface, whilst preventing the growth of odour-producing bacteria. Your GP can prescribe a number of products that can be applied to the skin to prevent sweating. Unfortunately, they can be irritating to the skin and it is important they are used correctly.
In addition to using antiperspirants, sufferers of hyperhidrosis should also be sure that they wear loose-fitting, natural fabrics, and that they avoid things that may trigger their condition such as alcohol, spicy food and hot or caffeinated drinks.
Iontophoresis works by passing a mild electrical current through the affected areas (such as the hands, feet and underarms) which disturbs the function of the sweat glands. Initially sufferers will be treated every few days until their symptoms disappear, and then weekly maintenance sessions will be needed to maintain the effectiveness of the treatment.
There are a number of different medications that can be prescribed by a doctor which can be helpful. Anti-cholinergics, beta-blockers, antihypertensives and anxiolytics may be used to treatment hyperhidrosis, but many come with uncomfortable side-effects so it's best to speak to your GP about whether any of these might be right for you.
Botulinum Toxin Injections
If treatments prescribed by your GP for hyperhidrosis don't work, then botulinum toxin injections can be considered as the next step.
Botulinum toxin is injected into the affected area, and works by blocking the nerves that supply the sweat glands, stopping them from producing sweat.
Botulinum toxin injections work well as a safe and effective treatment, with minimal side effects, but top-up treatments are usually required after about six or seven months and it is not easily available on the NHS. Before seeking treatment with botulinum toxin, make sure you have had a proper diagnosis from your GP and perhaps tried other options available on The NHS.
If you're looking to treat hyperhidrosis with botulinum toxin injections, then Save Face can help. Use the Save Face search engine to find an accredited practitioner, and find out everything you need to know about these types of injections by visiting our treatment information pages.