Excessive sweating is the absolute pits (excuse the pun). Not only can it be super embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it can really mess with your self-esteem - especially if you don’t know why the hell it's happening or how to treat it.
Sound familiar? Girl, you’re not alone. As it turns out, hyperhidrosis is actually way more common than you may think. So, we asked Dr Keturah Hoffman from the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia to break down everything you need to know about hyperhidrosis.
What is hyperhidrosis?
Excessive sweating (also known as hyperhidrosis) is a medical condition that affects as many as three in every 100 Australians, and it basically means you sweat a lot from different parts of the body for no apparent reason. It occurs most commonly in the armpits (known as axillary hyperhidrosis), but can also occur in other areas of the body like the palms (sweaty hands are known as palmar hyperhidrosis) and soles of the feet (plantar hyperhidrosis), and sometimes other areas such as the face or back.
What causes it?
Now, this is the tricky bit. Primary hyperhidrosis (which is also known as primary focal hyperhidrosis) is the most common type and unfortunately, there is no specific physical cause (cool!). “The exact cause is not known but it may relate to adrenaline release or other neurotransmitters. It certainly seems to be worse with stress,” says Dr Hoffman. It may also occur during your normal daily activities.
Secondary hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that is caused by an external factor such as a medication, or an underlying medical condition like a tumour, diabetes or thyroid issues. These two types of secondary hyperhidrosis can be further categorised into mild, moderate and severe.
How do you know if you have hyperhidrosis?
Of course, the next question then is: what’s the threshold between normal sweating and worrying sweat levels? How do you know if you’re part of the latter?
While it’s difficult to measure ‘sweat levels’ like you would blood pressure, there are some things that are considered red flags. “With true hyperhidrosis, there are often skin changes and the area that ends up wet more than it should can have thickened, textured skin, often with pigmentation,” explains Dr Hoffman.
“This can proceed to significant skin lesions but the main problem is the wetness that is socially unacceptable as well as uncomfortable; and when it affects palms and soles it can interfere with function as it makes those surfaces more slippery.”
Treatment of hyperhidrosis
The goods news? Yes, you can treat hyperhidrosis. There are a wide range of effective options, and what your doctor prescribes will depend on the severity of your hyperhidrosis. “Hyperhidrosis is a huge problem for sufferers and can seriously damage quality of life and mental health if left untreated when severe. Sometimes more than one type of treatment is necessary in order to control the problem,” says Dr Hoffman.
Here are some of the most common treatment options:
#1 / Prescription antiperspirants
The effectiveness of prescription antiperspirants depends on the severity of sweating. While antiperspirant products may not be the ticket for severe hyperhidrosis, they should work pretty well for mild cases of hyperhidrosis. “Antiperspirants reduce the amount of sweat produced and are best applied at night before bed when there is not so much sweating. This way the chemicals [in the antiperspirant] can find their way into the sweat gland, rather than being pushed out by active sweating,” explains Dr Hoffman.
#2 / Prescription medication
There are also some effective medications that can work to prevent your sweat glands from kicking into action – you’ll just need to see your doctor or dermatologist for a prescription. “Beta blocking drugs decrease the effect of adrenaline on the sweat glands,” explains Dr Hoffman.
#3 / Injectable therapy
One of the longer-lasting treatments that you’ve probably seen popping up here and there (Chrissy Teigen recently vouched for this treatment!) are botulinum toxin injections. Yep – the same injectables that you use to get rid of frown lines and wrinkles can also stop excessive sweating! It’s usually most effective in the underarm area and results can last for up to six months. Injectable therapy basically works by preventing the muscle in the sweat gland from contracting and pushing out the sweat, while decreasing the sensitivity of the sweat gland.
#4 / Iontophoresis
This kind of treatment involves using low-level electrical currents to temporarily disable sweat glands. “Electromagnetic or iontophoretic plates change the ionisation of the skin to decrease the release of sweat,” explains Dr Hoffman. You’ll have to repeat this treatment a few times a week, however after several treatments you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in sweating.
#5 / Surgical treatment
For severe cases of hyperhidrosis, the last resort is endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) – a surgery that involves cutting the nerves that supply the sweat glands in the area. It’s a very effective treatment, however, it is important to know that ETS can result in some side effects, including increased sweating somewhere else (this is called compensatory hyperhidrosis or compensatory sweating).
In search of a deodorant that’ll do the job in most circumstances? Check out the best deodorants that actually keep you smelling fresh all day.
Do you suffer from excessive sweating? What treatment works for you? Let us know in the comment section below.
Main image credit: Getty
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.