Fitness Facts: Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

The summer heat may not be the only thing causing you to sweat this summer. Hyperhidrosis also could be contributing!

The word “hyperhidrosis” (hi-purr-hi-DROE-sis) means too much (hyper) sweating (hidrosis).

Connie Colbert 

People with hyperhidrosis often feel as if they have excessive sweat even when they are not hot. Their palms or the soles of their feet are often extremely sweaty, which can make them overly cautious about shaking hands or prone to slipping. This condition often causes people to become self-conscious because of excessive underarm sweat, even with the use of deodorant.

It is normal to sweat when you are too hot or become nervous, but if you sweat excessively for no reason, this could be hyperhidrosis.

Sweating normally cools down the body, which prevents us from overheating, but people who have hyperhidrosis sweat when the body does not need cooling.

Many people who have hyperhidrosis sweat from one or two areas of the body. Most often, they sweat from their palms, feet, underarms or head. While the rest of the body remains dry, one or two areas may become excessively sweaty.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, other signs and symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Visible sweating:When you are not exerting yourself, do you often see beads of sweat on your skin or have sweat-soaked clothing? Do you sweat when you are sitting?
  • Sweating interferes with everyday activities:Does sweating cause difficulty holding a pen, walking or turning a doorknob? Does sweat drip heavily on to your papers or computer?
  • Skin turns soft, white and peels in certain areas:Does your skin stay wet for long periods?
  • Skin infections:Do you get frequent skin infections on the parts of your body that sweat heavily? Athlete’s foot and jock itch are common skin infections.

There are two identified types of hyperhidrosis.

The first is primary or essential hyperhidrosis.

In essential hyperhidrosis, the nerves responsible for signaling your sweat glands become overactive even though they have not been triggered by physical activity or a rise in temperature. With stress or nervousness, the problem becomes even worse.

This type usually affects your palms and soles and sometimes your face. There is usually no medical cause for this type, but it can run in families. Primary hyperhidrosis affects roughly 4.8% of the U.S. population.

The second is secondary hyperhidrosis.

This type is caused by another medical condition. This type is less common and usually is not concentrated on a few body areas, but it causes overall excessive sweating.

Some conditions that can cause this type of sweating are:

  • Diabetes
  • Menopause hot flashes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Low blood sugar
  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Infections
  • Gout
  • Opioid withdrawal

It is important to get a diagnosis before treating this condition. A health care provider must first find out if you have primary or secondary hyperhidrosis. This is an essential first step because if it is secondary hyperhidrosis, the underlying condition must first be treated.

If a diagnosis of primary hyperhidrosis is made and this is affecting everyday life, there are treatments that can help. Finding the right treatment can be difficult, but there are new ones coming out all the time.

Topical antiperspirants will control most cases of mild to moderate primary hyperhidrosis. But if these are ineffective, there are several other options, such as Botox, lasers, oral medications and prescription towelettes.

Antiperspirants such as aluminum chloride hexahydrate are safe and effective first-line treatments for mild to moderate primary hyperhidrosis of the palms, soles and underarms. They work by changing into a salt form and blocking the sweat glands. They are available in both over-the-counter and prescription strengths.

For best results, antiperspirants should be applied to dry skin. They can be applied less frequently if daily use causes skin irritation (redness, burning, itching, peeling).

For the newest information on hyperhidrosis and the up-to-date treatments, go to https://sweathelp.org/

If you are concerned that you have this medical condition, make an appointment with a dermatologist to get a proper diagnosis and start treatment.

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