Cures for Hyperhidrosis
by Sarah Densmore
The International Hyperhidrosis Society says 3 percent of the population suffers from excessive sweating.
Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive sweating. Most people with the condition sweat excessively on their armpits, feet, hands or face. Thanks to recent advances in medical procedures and drug therapy, several treatment options are available. Some provide temporary relief while others offer a permanent cure.
These topical aids come in prescription strengths that can be effective for mild to moderate hyperhidrosis. They work by blocking the sweat glands, but only temporarily. They need to applied each day.
The International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHS) says antiperspirants containing aluminum chloride hexahydrate are most effective. Those containing 10 to 15 percent of the drug are used for underarm perspiration. Hand or feet sweating requires a higher concentration of about 30 percent. Face sweaters can use antiperspirants but they may find the products irritate their skin.
This treatment consists of getting numerous, periodic injections of a diluted form of the poisonous protein botulinum toxin, known commercially as Botox. The drug works by paralyzing the nerve endings that stimulate the sweat glands so they no longer excrete perspiration.
Patients using Botox have to undergo 15 to 20 injections into the area where they are sweating. The injections can be painful but the treatment usually lasts seven to 16 months before additional injections are necessary. This treatment is used for patients suffering from foot, hand, face or underarm sweating.
This procedure temporarily plugs sweat glands by shocking them with very small amounts of electricity. According to IHA, patients put their hands or feet in a shallow pan of water with a low-level electrical current for 15 to 30 minutes every other day for about 10 days until the sweating has lessened to a manageable level.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says people can conveniently treat themselves at home, but the machine that provides the low-level electrical current requires a prescription. Patients will need to resoak their hands and feet when their sweating returns, anywhere from one week to a month after treatment.
Liposuctioning is a more involved procedure where fat and sweat glands are removed from the armpits. According to the Spring 2002 issue of Dermatology Insights, the procedure is performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. There is minimal bruising after the treatment, which can be so effective that some patients find they need fewer Botox treatments or can stop Botox injections altogether.
Endoscoptic Thoracis Sympathectomy (ETS) is used to treat excessive hand or underarm sweating. The most invasive of all the hyperhidrosis cures, ETS is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, a surgeon attempts to cut or otherwise destroy nerve paths that lead to the sweat glands. ETS usually requires one day of hospitalization.
Successful ETS surgery will permanently stop the sweating in the area that was treated; however, compensatory sweating in other areas of the body is a common side effect. The AAD cautions, "Because of this side effect, which can occur in up to 80 percent of patients, sympathectomy should be considered only for those patients who fully understand the risk."