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Image of an umbrella to represent hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis - excess sweating causes and possible treatments

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Maha Hussein from London Consulting Medical Center

Despite it being one of the most natural – and essential – bodily functions we have, we have all been embarrassed by sweating at some point.

Excess sweating, or hyperhidrosis, is a common condition that occurs in an estimated five per cent of people worldwide.

When sweat has soaked through your clothes, is producing body odour or is noticeably dripping from your skin, it can make some people feel embarrassed and self-conscious. Yet the effects can be managed with the right approach.

What is hyperhidrosis and what are the symptoms?

Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excess sweat.

Sweating is a normal and essential response to rising temperatures. It helps keep you cool during warmer weather, exercising or even when you are nervous. But sweating excessively – regardless of temperature or exercise – could be a sign of hyperhidrosis.

  • There are several types, and it can affect people differently. Some people with the condition sweat from their hands, others from the underarms and even more across the body.
  • Symptoms include sweat that soaks through clothes or is dripping off the skin multiple times a week, or has a noticeable and detrimental effect on your day-to-day life.
  • It can be a condition on its own (called primary focal hyperhidrosis) or a secondary symptom of another condition (called secondary generalised hyperhidrosis). These other conditions include anxiety disorders.
  • It often starts to develop during puberty but can frequently last into adulthood.

Why do I sweat so much?

Excessive sweating can be linked to:

Genetics

With primary focal hyperhidrosis, the exact causes are currently unknown – but the condition is thought to have genetic links. So, if you have one parent who suffers with the condition, you may also experience hyperhidrosis.

Diabetes

Diabetes inhibits the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature, so diabetics may find that when their blood sugar levels are too high or too low, they experience a greater level of perspiration.

Menopause

Sweating excessively can come about as a result of the menopause, which typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55. The imbalance of oestrogen can cause hot flashes, where the body temperature will rise rapidly for a short period of time. This increased temperature can lead to sweating as the body attempts to cool itself down.

Nervous system disorders

The body’s autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating temperature and how much you sweat. If you suffer from a nervous system disorder, it may have an effect on your system’s ability to control your levels of sweat secretion.

Anxiety disorder

Several anxiety disorders can cause excessive sweating as an additional symptom, and you might find you sweat more in crowds or near an anxiety trigger.

How can I prevent excess sweating?

If you suffer with hyperhidrosis there are a couple of easy wins to try immediately. Wear light and loose clothes in breathable fabrics such as cotton and silk, and use strong antiperspirants.

However, there are several other treatments and solutions that can also help alleviate the symptoms.

Speak to your doctor

Your medical professional is best suited to give you advice and will be able to identify whether you are suffering from primary focal hyperhidrosis, or whether your sweating is linked to another condition or trigger.

A doctor will also be able to suggest further treatment or medication to help alleviate the symptoms.

Blood sugar regulation

Should your excess sweat be linked to low blood sugar or diabetes, make sure you are handling your central condition effectively.

By ensuring your body’s glucose is at an appropriate level, your body will be better placed to manage internal temperature effectively – reducing the need to sweat profusely.

Look into Botox treatment

Medical Botox treatments can help alleviate the symptoms of excess sweating.

OnabotulinumtoxinA, the protein found in Botox, is very effective at temporarily blocking sweat secretion glands – by stopping the chemical signals between the skin and the glands. In some cases, Botox treatment has led to a decrease in sweating of up to 87 per cent.

Consider laser treatment

Laser treatment can be used to reduce the effects of excessive sweating. Precision lasers are used to heat and destroy sweat glands under the skin. The treatment is relatively painless, and none of the areas around the glands are likely to be harmed.

miraDry

This innovative procedure uses electromagnetic energy to target and eliminate sweat glands in the underarm area. Find out how it works and what the results can be.

Excess sweating facts

  • The term hyperhidrosis comes from the Greek word hidrosis, meaning literally ‘to sweat’.
  • More than 364 million people worldwide suffer from excess sweating, so if this applies to you, you’re far from alone.
  • Sweat is different for each individual person, consisting of a mixture of compounds unique to you – so no two people sweat the same.

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