Everyone sweats under their arms at one time or another. However, some people sweat profusely, leaving their shirts or blouses with large wet spots. This becomes a great embarrassment when they have to be out in public.
Is excessive sweating actually a medical problem?
Yes, excessive sweating is called hyperhidrosis. Approximately 3 percent of the American people suffer from this problem. Among this 3 percent, less than 40 percent actually seek medical help.
Hyperhidrosis is divided into primary hyperhidrosis and secondary hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis is when people have excessive sweating under the armpits and on the hands and feet. There is no known cause for this type, but it does appear to run in families.
Secondary hyperhidrosis is when excess sweating is a result of a known medical condition. The sweating may just affect one area of the body or the entire body may sweat. The most common conditions causing this type of sweating are cancer, anxiety conditions, heart disease, menopause, Parkinson's disease and stroke.
Are there any tests that can be done to detect hyperhidrosis?
Yes, there is a test that your doctor may want to perform. The Paper test is the most common test. A special type of paper is laid on the sweaty area and allowed to absorb the sweat. Then it is taken off and weighed. The weight shows the amount of sweat that had accumulated.
Is there anything that can be done to stop excessive sweating?
There are five treatments that doctors often use. Anticholinergic drugs prevent the sweat glands from being stimulated. Some patients do quite well with these drugs, but others experience problems with urination, dry mouth and dizziness.
Strong antiperspirant deodorants may help excessive sweating by plugging the sweat ducts. This deodorant is applied both during the day and at night. The high dosage of aluminum chloride hexahydrate can damage clothing, cause skin irritation and in some cases affect the patient's health by causing other problems.
Iontophoresis is a special treatment that uses electricity to turn off the sweat gland for a short period of time. It works best for sweating on the hands and feet. The treatments last approximately 15 minutes and often require several sessions. Rare side effects are blisters and cracking of the skin.
Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy is a simple surgical procedure that is often used as a last resort when nothing else works. It turns off the signal that tells the body to sweat excessively. It is often used on patients who have excessive sweating on their face or hands, but does not work for excessive sweating under the armpits.
Small amounts of Botox may be injected into the armpit to block the nerves that cause sweating. It does not work well for the hands and causes intense pain and temporary weakness. Patients receiving the underarm shots may experience flu-like symptoms and pain at the site of the injection.