DefinitionHyperhidrosis 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 two categories:
- Primary hyperhidrosis:
- Usually affects specific areas
- Has no known cause
- Secondary hyperhidrosis:
- Usually affects the entire body
- Caused by an underlying condition
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CausesPrimary hyperhidrosis may be triggered by:
- High emotional states, such as intense sadness, fear, anger, or stress
- Spicy foods
- Hot climates
- Certain medications
- Cancer, such as lymphoma
- Thyroid disease
- Acromegaly or anterior pituitary tumor
- Hypothalamic disorders
- Adrenal tumor
- Parkinsons disease
- Nervous system disorders
- Drug withdrawal
- Certain medications
Risk FactorsFactors that increase your 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
- Increased amount of sweating
- Change in pattern of sweating
- Change in the odor associated with sweating
- Stained clothing
DiagnosisYou will be asked about your 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 your doctor is concerned that you may have a specific medical condition.
Lifestyle ChangesTo help decrease the uncomfortable feeling and odor associated with sweating, try:
- Frequent clothing changes
- Careful washing
Topical TreatmentsA 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
MedicationsMedications are usually used for secondary hyperhidrosis. They are rarely used due to their side effects, but may include:
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Endoscopic thoracic or lumbar sympathectomy—the destruction of nerves that stimulate sweating
- Curettage—local removal of sweat glands via surgical scraping
- Liposuction techniques
PreventionThere are no known ways to prevent hyperhidrosis.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
International Hyperhidrosis Society
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- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 01/2015
- Update Date: 03/17/2014