When a person sweats excessively, this can affect their social life. Treatment is possible, however.
Advisors: Ana María Zapata Restrepo – General practitioner
Elina Bedoya Betancur -Dermatologist
Regardless of the weather, even with the cold for example, people with the condition called hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating on the palms of their hands, the soles of their feet, their armpits and, in some cases, on their face.
It is important to emphasize that sweating is one of the body’s mechanisms for regulating its temperature. Normally this response occurs after playing a sport or experiencing physical exertion, being in very hot environments or at other times or circumstances that generate tension, stress or anxiety.
“The most serious problem is when it occurs in the armpit area, for example, because apart from hyperhidrosis, bromhidrosis occurs, which is the bad odor and is more cause for concern for patients,” states Dr. Ana María Zapata Restrepo.
According to dermatologist Elina Bedoya Betancur, there are two types of hyperhidrosis. “One is the primary or focal type, which is considered hereditary and affects 3% of the population. It affects both men and women equally, and is called focal because the sebaceous glands are hyperstimulated – which synthesizes the sebum that lubricates and protects the skin – due to a very active sympathetic nervous system.”
The specialist adds that with this type of hyperhidrosis, symptoms “increase with stress and there is no clear cause.” In some families, some members may all experience excessive sweating.
The other type is secondary or generalized hyperhidrosis and is related to other underlying diseases such as diabetes, menopause, thyroid disease, hypoglycemia, some types of cancer, heart attacks and certain types of infections. Sometimes it can also be associated with drug withdrawal, especially with patients who take certain medications such as opioids.
Is there hope for a cure?
“Generally, aluminum chloride-based antiperspirants are used, which are the most well-known, with or without a prescription. The problem is that they can be severely irritating and, in some studies, they have been linked to breast cancer, so they are not highly recommended and are not indicated for long-term use,” states dermatologist Bedoya Betancur.
Other methods that can be used for treatment that can help reduce excess sweating, such as medications; however, they should always be used under medical supervision. Therefore, before taking any measures, consult a specialist first.
With regard to the botulinum toxin, as Bedoya explains, “This medication is widely used especially in palmar and axillary hyperhidrosis, but its side effects include pain and muscle weakness. Its effects last a maximum of one year and it is very expensive, so it is not recommended.”
As Dr. Zapata points out, surgical treatment “is recommended when the hyperhidrosis is very intense and symptomatic.” This surgery is called a sympathectomy and is performed by thoracic surgeons. “Its side effects may include increased paradoxical sweating, which is sweat that occurs elsewhere, but this is not always the case. Surgery is very helpful, especially with palmar hyperhidrosis as this is the most socially-isolating type as it is an outpatient treatment.”
Dr. Zapata affirms that it is important to address the causes, as this also improves the response to treatment. This is about finding the root of the problem, for example in cases where anxiety is what is triggering the condition. With such cases, the recommendation is to address both the underlying cause and the physical condition in order to reach a permanent solution.
Some of the complications that arise from hyperhidrosis include:
- Infections: People who sweat profusely are more likely to have skin infections.
- Social and emotional impacts: This condition can be embarrassing and can affect a person’s search for work and their educational objectives, for example.