Hyperhidrosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Hyperhidrosis is a non-threatening medical condition characterized by excessive sweating that is not necessarily related to heat or exercise. The excessive sweating usually occurs in the most active regions of perspiration including the hands, feet, armpits, groin and the facial area. This is due to high concentration of sweat glands in these areas.
People of all genders and ages can be affected by this condition. About 3% of the world’s population is affected with hyperhidrosis.
Classification of Hyperhidrosis
- Primary hyperhidrosis When excessive sweating is localized (affecting only one body part), it is referred to as primary or focal hyperhidrosis.
- Primary or focal hyperhidrosis may be further divided by the area affected. For example, palmoplantar hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating of the hands or feet. Axillary hyperhidrosis is the excessive sweating of the armpits, while gustatory hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating of the face or chest a few moments after consuming certain foods.
- Secondary hyperhidrosis When excessive sweating involves the whole body, it is referred to as secondary or generalised hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis may also be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developed later in life). However, most cases of hyperhidrosis tend to start during adolescence. It can affect and deteriorate the quality of life.
Causes of Hyperhidrosis
Sweating helps the body to stay cool. It is perfectly natural. The cause of primary hyperhidrosis is unknown, but it may be caused by overactivity of the nerves responsible for signalling the sweat glands.
When the body temperature rises, the nervous system automatically triggers the sweat glands. With anxiety or nervousness, the problem even gets worse for many sufferers.
Other factors that can play a role include certain food and drinks, caffeine and nicotine. Secondary hyperhidrosis usually results from an underlying medical condition. Conditions that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis includes
- Low blood sugar.
- Heart attack.
- Nervous system disorders.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Spinal cord injury.
Some infections such as
Some medications like
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis
Common signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis include
- Frequent sweating is usually unrelated to heat or exercise.
- Clammy palms of the hand.
- Clammy soles of the feet.
- Noticeable sweating that soaks through clothing.
Diagnosis for Hyperhidrosis
To make a diagnosis, the doctor will review your medical history and ask details about your sweating, location (localized or generalized), and time pattern (if it happens at night), if it starts when you are reminded of a traumatic event and any other symptom.
The doctor may try to rule out any underlying condition by ordering blood, urine or other lab tests.
Imaging tests to look for tumors such as Ultrasound, Computed Tomography (CT scan), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scan).
Sweat tests may be carried out, including iodine-starch test, skin conductance or a thermoregulatory sweat test to pinpoint areas of sweating and estimate the severity of your condition.
Treatment for Hyperhidrosis
If the condition is triggered by an underlying condition, the condition is treated first. If no cause is found, the goal of treatment is to control excessive sweating. Treatment options may include
- Prescription antiperspirant that contains 10% to 20% aluminium chloride.
- Botulinum toxin injection.
- Iontophoresis, in this procedure, the hands or feet are placed in water and then a gentle electric current is passed through it.
- Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, during this procedure, the surgeon cuts, burns or clamps the nerves that carry messages to the sweat glands. It is usually recommended in severe cases which have not responded to other treatments.
Certain alteration in daily activity and lifestyle may help with symptoms
- Armpit shields to protect garments from sweat.
- Regular bathing.
- Shoes and socks made of natural materials.
- Change socks often.
Home Remedies for Hyperhidrosis
- Apple cider vinegarUse apple cider vinegar as a natural astringent by applying it to your skin with a cotton swab before going to bed and washing it off in the morning. This can help in reducing the hyperhidrosis symptoms.
- Baking soda and cornstarch pasteBaking soda and cornstarch helps absorb sweat, lower pH levels and blocks odour. Make your own natural deodorant by mixing baking soda with cornstarch and applying it to clean, dry underarms. For best results, use this natural hyperhidrosis remedy several times a day.
- Lemon juiceLemon juice is a natural home remedy for hyperhidrosis. For best results, apply fresh lemon to your underarms at night, then take a shower in the morning to remove any residual scent.
- Drink plenty of waterYour body naturally produces more sweat when you are dehydrated or when your body temperature rises. Therefore, drinking lots of water is beneficial to prevent sweating naturally.
When to see a doctor?
Seek immediate medical help if heavy sweating is accompanied by chest pain, nausea or lightheadedness.