Excessive sweating is sometimes referred to as hyperhidrosis. It is a common condition that is estimated to affect 3 out of every 100 people. The condition may only affect certain areas of the body.
However, in some cases, the entire body can be affected. The most commonly affected areas are the armpits, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, the face, the chest and the groin.
Hyperhidrosis will usually affect both sides of the body – for example, it would be unusual for just one palm to be affected. In the majority of cases, excessive sweating doesn’t present any significant threat to a person’s health. However, the associated symptoms can cause embarrassment or distress, which potentially can affect an individual’s quality of life. This may result in feelings of anxiety or depression. Excessive sweating can strike at any age, although the majority of cases typically develop during childhood or not long after puberty.
There are no specific guidelines that outline what normal levels of sweating are. If a person feels that they are sweating to the extent that it is interfering with their everyday life then they may have hyperhidrosis. Examples of this interference include:
- Avoiding physical contact, such as handshakes, due to being self-conscious about excessive sweating.
- Avoiding physical activities, such as exercise or dancing, through fear of making sweating worse.
- Job interference, where it is difficult to hold tools, operate a keyboard or drive.
- Spending a significant amount of time trying to counter the sweating, for example; frequent showers or changes of clothes.
In most cases, excessive sweating has no obvious cause, though it is thought to be the result of a problem with the nervous system, specifically the part that regulates sweating. This form of excessive sweating is known as primary hyperhidrosis. Where there are identifiable causes, it is known as secondary hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis can be triggered for a variety of reasons, including:
- Overactive thyroid.
- Certain medicines.
- Certain types of infections.