Excessive perspiration, or hyperhidrosis, can be an embarrassing, socially isolating and depressing problem. Finally recognized by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and the Coalition of Skin Diseases (CSD) as a legitimate skin disease, education about and awareness of hyperhidrosis can now bring relief to sufferers. Dr. David Pariser, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, expressed support for this acknowledgment, indicating in a public statement that the 178 million people with this condition have “suffered in isolation and shame” for too long.
The first line of defense against excessive sweating includes over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants. Aluminum salts in these products inhibit the action of sweat ducts. For people with mild palmar (hands) and/or plantar (feet) hyperhidrosis, applying antiperspirants to these areas can bring relief.
People with mild to moderate hyperhidrosis may want to try prescription antiperspirants. Mayo Clinic says that these products rely on aluminum chloride to inhibit perspiration. Because they can cause swollen, itchy skin, Mayo Clinic recommends only applying them at night and washing them off in the morning.
A number of oral medications can be tried to control hyperhidrosis. Historically, anticholinergics, beta blockers and clondine hydrochloride have been used, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. Mayo Clinic cautions that, while anticholinergic drugs block the chemical messengers that stimulate sweat glands to produce perspiration, the drugs are systemic, meaning they affect the entire body, and side effects can be serious. Side effects include dry mouth, constipation, blurry vision, dizziness and confusion. More serious side effects are possible.
This treatment is mainly for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis, though it can be tried in certain cases of axillary (underarm) cases. During this treatment, patients place their hands and/or feet into a tray of tap water. A low level current is sent through the water. Mayo Clinic hypothesizes that the treatment temporarily blocks sweat glands. The International Hyperhidrosis Society explains that the combination of electrical current with minerals in the water cause the outer layer of skin to thicken, thus eventually blocking sweat flow to the surface of skin. The treatment takes weeks to show results, during which time the patient is treated during 15- to 40-minutes sessions; a home maintenance program may be required to maintain results. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that some insurance companies now reimburse patients for the home kit after receiving a letter from the physician. Training is required to use the kit properly.