Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. It can be an embarrassing and serious problem. It can affect social, professional, and intimate relationships.
The sweating may be in just one area. It is most common in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and/or armpits. In some cases, the sweating can also affect the entire body. Hyperhidrosis is divided into two categories:
- Usually affects specific areas
- Has no known cause
- Usually affects the entire body
- Caused by an underlying condition
Primary hyperhidrosis may be triggered by:
- High emotional states, such as intense sadness, fear, anger, or stress
- Spicy foods
- Hot climates
- Certain medications
Secondary hyperhidrosis may be caused by conditions such as:
Factors that increase your chance of secondary hyperhidrosis are the conditions that cause it (listed above).
- Excessive sweating of palms of the hands and/or soles of the feet
- Excessive sweating of the armpits, head, and/or face
- Increased amount of sweating
- Change in pattern of sweating
- Change in the odor associated with sweating
- Stained clothing
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
A starch-iodine test is often used on the armpits. It may be used to determine the areas with the most active sweat glands.
Tests may be done if your doctor is concerned that you may have a specific medical condition.
To help decrease the uncomfortable feeling and odor associated with sweating, try:
- Frequent clothing changes
- Careful washing
A number of treatments can be applied to decrease sweating in a particular area. These include:
- Aluminum chloride hexahydrate
- Aluminum tetrachloride
- Formalin compresses
- Glutaraldehyde compresses
- Iontophoresis (stimulation with electrical current)—needs to be repeated on a daily or weekly basis, eventually tapering off to every 1-2 weeks; may be used if prescription antiperspirants fail
Medications are usually used for secondary hyperhidrosis. They are rarely used due to their side effects, but may include:
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
Botulinum A Neurotoxin
This is the toxin produced by the bacteria that causes botulism. Injections of this toxin can decrease sweating in certain areas. It is often used on the palms of the hands and armpits. The effect of one cycle of injections may last for 6-8 months for most patients.
There are no known ways to prevent hyperhidrosis.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
International Hyperhidrosis Society
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Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.