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What is Hyperhidrosis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by excessive sweating, with the body producing far more sweat than would be needed to regulate body temperature. The severity of this condition varies, as does the focal point of the sweating, and there are a number of treatments for hyperhidrosis, ranging from extremely strong antiperspirants to surgical options.

In what is known as primary hidrosis, the condition appears alone, without any other symptoms, typically around the age of puberty. This form of hyperhidrosis typically strikes the palms, feet, and armpits, although excessive sweat can appear on other areas of the body. Patients may find it more frustrating than anything else, as they may be forced to change clothes frequently and to deal with the smell associated with the bacterial breakdown of sweat.

In secondary hidrosis, excessive sweating appears as a symptom of another medical condition, or as a byproduct of treatment. In this case, treating the underlying condition or completing the course of treatment will generally cause the problem to go away. Secondary hidrosis is far more likely to appear across the entire body, rather than concentrated in specific areas.

Hyperhidrosis is generally diagnosed when a patient complains of excessive sweating to his or her physician. The physician may ask to do some tests to eliminate underlying conditions before treating the hyperhidrosis, depending on the patient's medical history and general health. Generally, the first step is a prescription for a strong antiperspirant or a topical soak which can be used to reduce the amount of sweat produced by the body.

If this fails to work, various oral medications may be used; some drugs are used off-label to treat hyperhidrosis, while others are designed specifically for the treatment of this condition. Injections of Botox also appear to be effective in hyperhidrosis treatment. If these measures are not sufficient, surgery may be used to remove some of the sweat glands in the area, or to sever some of the nerves which may be stimulating the glands to sweat excessively. Meditation and hypnosis may also be used as complementary treatments.

As a general rule, hyperhidrosis is not dangerous. In some cases, it can lead to skin conditions and discomfort, and this combined with the embarrassment linked with the excessive sweating leads people to seek treatment. However, some patients prefer to just cope with the effects by changing clothes frequently, washing the affected areas regularly and well, and applying talcum powder to treat breakouts of sweating.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon339977 — On Jun 28, 2013

I sweat excessively under my breasts and in my knee crevices, but I also cannot sweat on my face, so it's like I have a combination of both hyper and anhidrosis, if that's possible.

By anon292469 — On Sep 20, 2012

I hate my palms when they sweat out. Please give me some tips to stop this.

By anon233381 — On Dec 06, 2011

I have suffered with excessive sweating of the head for the last several years. There isn't any odor associated with this, but it is extremely embarrassing. I have tried several medications and nothing seems to work. Anyone have any suggestions?

By anon226889 — On Nov 02, 2011

I have this problem of hyperhidrosis with my palms and feet which has had a huge setback on my self confidence. I hate it!

For some weird reason, I find it prominent in colder countries (US, switzerland) than back home in India, which is what I could not comprehend. There is no particular reason that my stress levels are different in both the places. So must be climate, but it is counterintuitive to the fact that sweat should cool down my body temperature.

By CharmaineC — On Nov 29, 2010

Thank you for the clear description of hyperhidrosis, which is a problem I have suffered from all my life. In my blog, I describe what it's like to live with hyperhidrosis and all the ways I have found to hide the sweat and even control it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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