As a mechanism for cooling, sweating is incredibly effective. The average person has 2 to 4 million sweat glands that work together to protect the body from overheating. But there may be times when you feel you’re sweating more than you need to — and that sweating is impacting your comfort and making you feel insecure. If so, you may have hyperhidrosis, the medical term for excessive sweating. Here are answers to the three top questions you’re probably asking:
- What Counts as Excessive Sweating?
You generally shouldn’t be worried if you just feel that you sweat a little more than other people do when you’re taking a jog or playing a sport. There’s a wide range of what is considered “normal” sweating when it comes to cooling the body. But if you sweat even when you’re not exerting yourself or when you’re in a relatively cool environment, then that might be a sign you should see a doctor about your sweating. The 8 million Americans living with hyperhidrosis sweat as much as four or five times more than the average person, so it’s more than just a case of clammy palms now and again.
- What Causes Excessive Sweating?
In some cases, hyperhidrosis may be caused by a separate medical condition, such as diabetes, thyroid problems, or an infection. Certain drug interactions may also cause unusual sweating. But the most common cause is called primary focal hyperhidrosis; it affects between 1 and 3% of the population. Among those people, 30 to 50% have another family member also suffering from hyperhidrosis, which implies there is some sort of genetic predisposition. Characterized by symmetrical sweating from the body in certain areas (typically the face, underarms, hands, feet, and groin), this type of hyperhidrosis usually becomes apparent in childhood or adolescence. Although it is considered a medical condition, it doesn’t have any ill effects on health. However, it can severely decrease a patient’s quality of life, which is why many people choose to seek treatment.
- What Treats Excessive Sweating?
Treating hyperhidrosis first requires an accurate diagnosis, of course. If it is associated with a condition such as diabetes, then treatment must address that underlying cause. But one good way to stop hyperhidrosis in the absence of another medical condition is iontophoresis. Essentially, this process involves introducing mild electrical currents to the affected area through the skin. It appears to shut down sweat glands (although doctors aren’t exactly sure why), and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that it’s effective for about 80% of hyperhidrosis patients (although various manufacturers’ clinical studies show efficacy rates from 85-98%). You can get an iontophoresis machine to use at home with a physician’s prescription, so it’s at least worth discussing with your doctor.
Are you considering getting help with excessive sweating? Join the discussion in the comments.