Stink, Stank, Stunk – When Excessive Sweating is a Problem
Sweating is a
natural function of the body to cool it down during physical exertion or from a
warm environment or to even help cope with emotional situations.
But some people have
overactive glands and produce sweat excessively without these normal stimuli. It’s
a medical condition called hyperhidrosis that affects 2 to 3 percent of the
“For the majority of
individuals with hyperhidrosis, this excessive sweating affects their hands,
feet and underarms,” said William W. Huang, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant
professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Commonly, there
is no particular cause found, and this is called primary hyperhidrosis. There
is a subset of individuals with hyperhidrosis that is caused by other
conditions such as medications, cancers, metabolic and hormonal imbalances,
infections and nerve injury. These individuals have secondary hyperhidrosis.”`
Huang said that the
uncontrollable sweating of hyperhidrosis can have a serious impact on a person,
both physically and emotionally. “Sweating through a shirt or always having wet
hands can lead to embarrassment and discomfort.”
Huang provides some helpful
tips to deal with the condition:
- Hyperhidrosis can be a problem through
every season. Sufferers should opt for breathable, natural fiber clothing
and should wash clothes after a single use.
- Sweat is essentially odorless,
but body odor becomes a problem due to bacteria on the skin’s surface. Using
an antibacterial soap is helpful and showers over baths are better for
removing sweat and bacteria.
- Avoiding certain foods such as
fatty foods, oils, and strong smelling foods like garlic, onions, and
curry that can seep through pores can help with body odor.
- Reduce caffeine intake from
coffee, teas and soft drinks because they can stimulate the sweat glands.
- Stay hydrated, especially in the
summer, because excessive sweating causes loss of water and electrolytes.
- Seek medical attention. There are
many medical treatments available that can often be life changing.
Huang said a first step is
to use an over the counter or prescription strength antiperspirant that contains
aluminum chloride compounds that help close off the sweat glands. Oral medications
such as anticholinergics block the primary signal (acetylcholine) that
stimulates the sweat glands to make sweat.
In addition, he said, there
are in-office procedures that can treat hyperhidrosis such as iontophoresis – a technique that uses water to conduct a
mild electrical current through the skin's surface – and
injections of botulinum toxin type A. Lastly, there are surgeries that can be
performed called sympathectomies which are reserved for the most severe and
treatment-resistant cases. More recently a non-invasive procedure has been
developed that uses microwave-based energy to destroy sweat glands.
“Any treatment or procedure
has its own potential risks and benefits and should be discussed thoroughly
with a qualified heath care provider,” Huang said. “My recommendation for
patients with this condition and other conditions that can cause embarrassment
is to realize you are not alone in dealing with this and should seek help from
Media Relations Contacts: