Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. It can be an embarrassing and serious problem. It can affect social, professional, and intimate relationships.
The sweating may be in just one area. It is most common in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and/or armpits. In some cases, the sweating can also affect the entire body. Hyperhidrosis is divided into 2 categories:
Usually affects specific areasHas no known cause
Secondary hyperhidrosis: Usually affects the entire bodyCaused by an underlying condition
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Primary hyperhidrosis may be triggered by: High emotional states, such as intense sadness, fear, anger, or stressSpicy foodsHot climates
Secondary hyperhidrosis may be caused by conditions such as: MenopauseFeverInfection
Cancer, such as
or anterior pituitary tumor
Hypothalamic disordersAdrenal tumorParkinson's diseaseNervous system disorders
Factors that may increase the chance of secondary hyperhidrosis are the conditions that cause it (listed above).
Symptoms include: Excessive sweating of palms of the hands and/or soles of the feetExcessive sweating of the armpits, head, and/or faceIncreased amount of sweatingChange in pattern of sweatingChange in the odor associated with sweatingStained clothing
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
A starch-iodine test is often used on the armpits. It may be used to determine the areas with the most active sweat glands.
Tests may be done if the doctor is concerned about a specific medical condition.
To help decrease the uncomfortable feeling and odor associated with sweating, try: Frequent clothing changesCareful washing
A number of treatments can be applied to decrease sweating in a particular area. These include: Aluminum chloride hexahydrateAluminum tetrachlorideFormalin compressesGlutaraldehyde compressesIontophoresis (stimulation with electrical current)—Needs to be repeated on a daily or weekly basis, eventually tapering off to every 1-2 weeks. May be used if prescription antiperspirants fail.
Medications are usually used for secondary hyperhidrosis. They are rarely used due to their side effects, but may include: AmitriptylineClonazepamBeta blockersCalcium channel blockersGabapentinOxybutyninIndomethacin
Botulinum A neurotoxin is produced by the bacteria that causes botulism. Injections of this toxin can decrease sweating in certain areas. It is often used on the palms of the hands and armpits. The effect of one cycle of injections may last for 6-8 months for most people.
Endoscopic thoracic or lumbar sympathectomy—the destruction of nerves that stimulate sweatingCurettage—local removal of sweat glands via surgical scrapingUltrasoundLiposuction techniques
There are no current guidelines to prevent hyperhidrosis.
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Last reviewed March 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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