Sweating is a normal way for our bodies to cool down. Whether the heat is due to hot weather, exercise, or embarrassment, your brain responds by activating millions of sweat glands spread over your body. Sweat drips out of the pores, and the evaporation of the sweat cools the body.
WHAT IS EXCESSIVE SWEATING?
Medically called “primary focal hyperhidrosis,” excessive sweating is when the body sweats without cause. Imagine an “on/off’ switch for sweat glands stuck in the “on” position. This condition affects 1 to 2 percent of the population and often runs in families. The most commonly affected areas include the armpits, palms, and soles.
WHY DO WE TREAT SWEATING?
Whether you are a “normal” sweater or an “excessive” sweater, you may want to decrease the amount you sweat. The reasons range from not wanting to ruin your clothing with sweat stains and not wanting to smell to social concerns like not seeming anxious or afraid.
HOW DO WE TREAT SWEATING?
Fortunately, there are treatments for those who suffer from excessive sweating, or who may want to simply diminish normal sweating. Antiperspirants are an effective way to address more mild degrees of sweating. They work by plugging the sweat gland. Your doctor (usually a dermatologist) can prescribe stronger antiperspirants than those available over the counter.
If you prefer not to use an antiperspirant, there are several alternatives, such as prescription oral and topical medications that decrease your ability to sweat, iontophoresis (which uses low-intensity electrical currents and is often initially effective), and Botox, which can completely inactivate sweat glands and is used on the scalp, armpits, hands, and feet. For those that suffer from armpit sweating, miraDry is a noninvasive procedure that permanently deactivates most of the sweat glands in the armpits. This treatment results in an immediate reduction in sweating and odor, and most patients require only one treatment. There are also surgical options, though they may result in the development of compensatory sweating in other regions, and caution is recommended.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR?
As already mentioned, decreasing sweating is a lifestyle choice for most of us. However, excessive sweating that starts after puberty or affects the whole body may be due to a medical cause. New-onset excessive sweating requires a medical work up to diagnose and treat or manage the underlying medical condition.