The Other Problem with Hyperhidrosis

While it is true that everybody sweats, no one wants to be seen doing it, at least outside the gym. Sweating is the way the body regulates its internal temperature. When it gets too hot, sweat glands deposit liquid on the skin, which cools it off when it hits the air. But there is a normal amount of sweat, and then there is more than that. This is called hyperhidrosis, and aside from being mortifying, it may be an indication of other problems.

There are two types of excessive sweating: focal and general. Focal (primary) hyperhidrosis is confined to a certain area of the body, most typically the feet, hands, face, and armpits. Generalized (secondary) hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, involves the entire body. Hyperhydrosis can be hereditary in nature, but it can also be acquired as a symptom of a disorder.

No one really knows what causes hyperhidrosis but it is speculated that it may be due to a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Hyperhidrosis is typically triggered when the body responds to some type of stress, such as fear. In some cases, however, the excessive sweating may be an indication of certain disorders such as diabetes and congenital heart disease. Studies also show that hyperhidrosis may be triggered by certain stimuli such as nicotine and caffeine.

Hyperhidrosis per se is not physically dangerous as long as the sufferer remains hydrated, but it can have significant adverse psychological effects. Because excessive sweating is generally unattractive and off-putting, those who suffer from the condition often avoid most physical contacts and socializing to minimize embarrassment.

There are several modes of treatment for hyperhidrosis, but it is pretty much hit and miss because no one actually knows why it occurs or what triggers. In general, treatment is palliative such as using antiperspirants, anticholinergic drugs or Botox injections, but none of these really get rid of the problem. It is possible to surgically remove the sweat glands, and some swear by the efficacy of acupuncture. The success of the chosen treatment varies on a case-to-case basis, so if one method doesn’t work, one can always try another.