What is hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is the excessive production of sweat. Hyperhidrosis can either be focal (where only one part of the body is affected) or generalized (where the whole body is affected).

It is a fairly common condition affecting over a million people in the UK. The condition starts in adolescence or early adult life. Men and women are equally affected. This can be a very distressing condition and can lead to significant psychological stress.

What causes hyperhidrosis?

Sweating is a normal body process which helps maintain the body temperature. Normally sweating occurs when the body temperature increases (e.g. during exercise, hot environment). In some people excessive sweat production may result due to a number of different causes, even when the body temperature is not elevated.

In most patients an underlying cause cannot be identified (Primary idiopathic type). In others an underlying condition (e.g. hyperthyroidism) which leads to increased sweating can be identified (Secondary type).

Sometimes the excess sweating may be associated with a trigger (e.g. spicy food, alcohol) which should be avoided.

What are the symptoms?

  • Excess sweating- drenched clothes, body odour
  • Social withdrawal
  • Psychological stress

How can hyperhidrosis be treated?

  • Self help- taking regular showers, using deodorant, wearing loose clothing, black clothing and arm pit shields
  • Antiperspirant medication
  • Iontophoresis- for sweaty hands and feet
  • Botulinum Toxin (BOTOX) Injections given to the affected areas
  • Surgery- for patients who do not respond to other treatments, Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathetectomy (ETS) surgery, which is done via keyhole surgery may be carried out

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