Primary hyperhidrosis is the condition characterized by abnormally increased perspiration, in excess of that required for regulation of body temperature. Some patients afflicted with the condition experience a distinct reduction in the quality of life. Sufferers feel at a loss of control because perspiration takes place independent of temperature and emotional state. more...
However, anxiety can exacerbate the situation for many sufferers. A common complaint of patients is that they get nervous because they sweat, then sweat more because they are nervous. Other factors can play a role; certain foods & drinks, nicotine, caffeine, and smells can trigger a response (see also diaphoresis).
There is controversy regarding the definition of hyperhidrosis, because any sweat that drips off of the body is in excess of that required for thermoregulation. Almost all people will drip sweat off of the body during heavy exercise.
Hyperhidrosis can either be generalized or localized to specific parts of the body. Hands, feet, axillae, and the groin area are among the most active regions of perspiration due to the relatively high concentration of sweat glands; however, any part of body may be affected. Primary hyperhidrosis is found to start during adolescence or even before, and interestingly, seems to be inherited as an autosomal dominant genetic trait.
Primary hyperhidrosis must be distinguished from secondary hyperhidrosis, which can start at any point in life. The latter form may be due to a disorder of the thyroid or pituitary gland, diabetes mellitus, tumors, gout, menopause or certain drugs.
Primary hyperhidrosis is estimated at around 1% of the population, afflicting men and women equally.
It is not known what causes primary hyperhidrosis. One theory is that hyperhidrosis results from an over-active sympathetic nervous system, but this hyperactivity may in turn be caused by abnormal brain function.
Hyperhidrosis can usually be treated, but there is no cure.
- Surgery (Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy or ETS): Select sympathetic nerves or nerve ganglia in the chest are either cut or burned (completely destroying their ability to transmit impulses), or clamped (theoretically allowing for the reversal of the procedure). The procedure often causes anhidrosis from the mid-chest upwards, a disturbing condition. Major drawbacks to the procedure include thermoregulatory dysfuction (Goldstien, 2005), lowered fear and alertness (Teleranta, Pohjavaara, et al 2003, 2004) and the overwhelming incidence of compensatory hyperhidrosis. Some people find this sweating to be tolerable while others find the compensatory hyperhidrosis to be worse than the initial condition. It has also been established that there is a low (less than 1%) chance of Horner's syndrome. Other risks common to minimally-invasive chest surgery, though rare, do exist. Patients have also been shown to experience a cardiac sympathetic denervation, which results in a 10% lowered heartbeat during both rest and exercise.
- Aluminum chloride (hexahydrate) solution: The most common brands are Drysol®, Maxim® and Odaban®. Aluminum chloride is used in regular antiperspirants, but hyperhidrosis sufferers need a much higher concentration. A 15% aluminum chloride solution or higher usually takes about a week of nightly use to stop the sweating, with one or two nightly applications per week to maintain the results. An aluminum chloride solution can be very effective; some people, however, cannot tolerate the irritation that it can cause. Also, the solution is usually not effective for palmar (hand) and plantar (foot) hyperhidrosis.
- Botulinum toxin type A (trademarked as Botox®): Injections of the botulinum toxin are used to disable the sweat glands. The effects can last from 4-9 months depending on the site of injections. With proper anesthesia the hand and foot injections are almost painless. The procedure when used for underarm sweating has been approved by the US FDA, and now some insurance companies pay partially for the treatments.
- Iontophoresis: The affected area is placed in a device that has two pails of water with a conductor in each one. The hand or foot acts like a conductor between the positively- and negatively-charged pails. As the low current passes through the area, the minerals in the water clog the sweat glands, limiting the amount of sweat released. A common brand of tap water iontophoresis device is the Drionic®, Idrostar or MD1 Fischer. Some people have seen great results while others see no effect. However, since the device can be painful to some and a great deal of time is required, no cessation of sweating in some people may be the result of not using the device as required. The device is usually used for the hands and feet, but there has been a device created for the axillae (armpit) area and for the stump region of amputees.
- Oral medication: There are several drugs available with varying degrees of success. A class of anticholinergic drugs are available that have shown to reduce hyperhidrosis. Ditropan® (generic name: oxybutynin) is one that has been the most promising. For some people, however, the drowsiness and dry-mouth associated with the drug cannot be tolerated. A time release version of the drug is also available, called Ditropan XL®, with purportedly reduced effectiveness. Robinul® (generic name: glycopyrrolate) is another drug used on an off-label basis. The drug seems to be almost as effective as oxybutynin, with similar side-effects. Other less effective anticholinergic agents that have been tried include propantheline bromide (Probanthine®) and benztropine (Cogentin®). A different class of drugs known as beta-blockers has also been tried, but don't seem to be nearly as effective.
A potential for the temporary treatment of hyperhidrosis is dricor. It is primarily an odorless deodorant that is applied at night. Many find it irritating but the results could be apparent depending on the individual.
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