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Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. It can be an embarrassing and serious problem. It can affect social, professional, and intimate relationships.
The sweating may be in just one area. It is most common in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and/or armpits. In some cases, the sweating can also affect the entire body. Hyperhidrosis is divided into 2 categories:
- Usually affects specific areas
- Has no known cause
- Usually affects the entire body
- Caused by an underlying condition
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Primary hyperhidrosis may be triggered by:
- High emotional states, such as intense sadness, fear, anger, or stress
- Spicy foods
- Hot climates
- Certain medications
Secondary hyperhidrosis may be caused by conditions such as:
Factors that may increase the chance of secondary hyperhidrosis are the conditions that cause it (listed above).
- Excessive sweating of palms of the hands and/or soles of the feet
- Excessive sweating of the armpits, head, and/or face
- Increased amount of sweating
- Change in pattern of sweating
- Change in the odor associated with sweating
- Stained clothing
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
A starch-iodine test is often used on the armpits. It may be used to determine the areas with the most active sweat glands.
Tests may be done if the doctor is concerned about a specific medical condition.
To help decrease the uncomfortable feeling and odor associated with sweating, try:
- Frequent clothing changes
- Careful washing
A number of treatments can be applied to decrease sweating in a particular area. These include:
- Aluminum chloride hexahydrate
- Aluminum tetrachloride
- Formalin compresses
- Glutaraldehyde compresses
- Iontophoresis (stimulation with electrical current)—Needs to be repeated on a daily or weekly basis, eventually tapering off to every 1-2 weeks. May be used if prescription antiperspirants fail.
Medications are usually used for secondary hyperhidrosis. They are rarely used due to their side effects, but may include:
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
Botulinum A Neurotoxin
Botulinum A neurotoxin is produced by the bacteria that causes botulism. Injections of this toxin can decrease sweating in certain areas. It is often used on the palms of the hands and armpits. The effect of one cycle of injections may last for 6-8 months for most people.
- Endoscopic thoracic or lumbar sympathectomy—the destruction of nerves that stimulate sweating
- Curettage—local removal of sweat glands via surgical scraping
- Liposuction techniques
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
International Hyperhidrosis Society
Baumgartner FJ. Surgical approaches and techniques in the management of severe hyperhidrosis. Thorac Surg Clin. 2008;18(2):167-181.
Commons GW, Lim AF. Treatment of axillary hyperhidrosis/bromidrosis using VASER ultrasound. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2009;33(3):312-323.
Hyperhidrosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 4, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2014.
Saenz JW, Sams RW 2nd, Jamieson B. FPIN's clinical inquiries. Treatment of hyperhidrosis. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(4):465-466.
Solish N, Bertucci V, Dansereau A, et al. A comprehensive approach to the recognition, diagnosis, and severity-based treatment of focal hyperhidrosis: recommendations of the Canadian Hyperhidrosis Advisory Committee. Dermatol Surg. 2007;33(8):908–923.
Yamashita N, Shimizu H, Kawada M, et al. Local injection of botulinum toxin A for palmar hyperhidrosis: usefulness and efficacy in relation to severity. J Dermatol. 2008;35(6):325-329.
- Reviewer: James Cornell, MD
- Review Date: 03/2016
- Update Date: 03/17/2014