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Excessive Sweating Treatment - How To Stop Sweating

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  • What is Excessive Sweating & Hyperhydrosis?

    Sweating is a normal function of the human body. However, some people (around 1% of the population) suffer from excessive sweating - high levels of sweat that can be problematic in practical & social situations. There is no specific threshold which constitutes excessive sweating, but you may want to contact your GP and seek treatments if you find that you sweat so much as to be uncomfortable, either physically or socially.

    Prolonged cases of excessive sweating without any obvious triggers are known as hyperhidrosis. It is normally limited to certain areas of the body like the face or the hands opposed to general sweating which tends to be all over the body.

  • What are the different kinds of Hyperhidrosis?

    Hyperhidrosis is the name for severe instances of excessive sweating. Roughly one percent of the population suffers from a form of hyperhidrosis. Unlike general sweating, which can affect any or all parts of the body, this condition is limited to the underarm (axillary hyperhidrosis), hands (palmar hyperhidrosis), feet (pedal hyperhidrosis) or face (hyperhidrosis).

    Some people primarily suffer from excessive sweating while asleep. This is called nocturnal hyperhidrosis. It may cause you to wake up in uncomfortable damp bedding. This most commonly affects adults going through phases of hormonal change – it is a symptom of the menopause in women and the ‘andropause’ in men.

    Because the symptoms tend to be quite apparent, it is usually straightforward to diagnose each of these kinds of hyperhidrosis. However, your GP may recommend some tests to ensure that your sweating is not due to certain other conditions like an overactive thyroid.

  • Why does Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis) occur?

    The occurrence of hyperhidrosis in a person is largely unpredictable and occurs in people who are otherwise healthy, although it may get worse during particularly stressful periods. It is the result of over-active sweat glands possibly due to a problem with the sympathetic nervous system. In about 40% of cases, there is a family history of hyperhidrosis. This means there is likely a genetic contribution, though not everyone knows of a family member who suffers from this ailment.

    There are some medical ailments that can cause excessive sweating. Thyroid, menopause, and anxiety can cause excessive sweating, but this perspiration will appear on the majority of the body whereas hyperhidrosis is limited to certain areas such as the hands or face. Night sweating can be a presentation of some malignant diseases or infections such as tuberculosis.

    At times, however, hyperhidrosis may be a result of more severe complications such as diabetes or thyroid conditions. For this reason, you should consult your GP if you think you are sweating excessively – they may recommend some tests to rule out these conditions.

  • Will Hyperhidrosis last my entire life?

    In most cases, hyperhidrosis is a chronic condition that tends to start during puberty and will not go away. It may become more pronounced with age, however, there are also reports of that people have suffered from excessive sweating and it disappeared later in their life. This does not mean that you will have a similar experience.

    Hyperhidrosis cannot be cured, but there are several methods of treatment and lifestyle changes which can help to minimise its impact on your life.

  • How do I treat Excessive Sweating?

    There are several options for treatment, depending on the severity of your hyperhidrosis.

    The first option is an aluminium chloride antiperspirant. Driclor, Odaban, Anhydrol Forte and Perspirex are all contain 10 - 20% aluminium chloride, compared to about 5% for normal antiperspirants. Odaban tends to be especially popular because it can be sprayed on the face as well as on other areas. They work by blocking the sweat glands, preventing the release of excessive sweat. They are effective at bringing the condition under control in most sufferers.

    If antiperspirants are ineffective, your doctor may advise more drastic treatments. One of these is iontophoresis, a treatment whereby an electrical current is used to reduce the activity of sweat glands. It is a painless procedure that involves placing your hands in tubs of water which are subjected to electric currents.

    More commonly used in cosmetic procedures, Botox can also be effective at kerbing excessive sweating. Botox injections stop the pathways through which the sweat glands receive signals from the brain. It can prevent excessive sweating for up to four months following a treatment.

    Finally, there is a surgical treatment called Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy, which involves disabling the part of the nervous system responsible for excessive sweating. It is most often used to treat palmar hyperhidrosis.

  • What are the long-term effects of Excessive Sweating or Hyperhidrosis?

    Hyperhidrosis is normally a chronic, lifelong condition starting during puberty. Hyperhidrosis usually occurs on its own, in which case it is not physically harmful and will not impact your lifespan. The harmful effects of hyperhidrosis are primarily psychological. It can be a major component of social anxiety and low self-esteem. If anxiety due to excessive sweating is having an impact on your life, consider talking to your GP about your options for treatment.

    Whilst excessive sweating does not damage your health, it can have an impact on you in a psychological and emotional way. It can lead to social anxiety, low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. All of which can have a detrimental effect on the sufferer’s career, relationships and family life.

    Excessive sweating is not usually linked to normal stimuli for sweating such as the weather, temperature or time of day. It can also be worsened by stressful situations such as interviews or social events.

    Primary hyperhidrosis, that for no apparent reason, is unlikely to be due to a serious underlying health problem. However, secondary hyperhidrosis normally needs to be investigated as this type of excessive sweating can be caused by a medical condition, for example, thyroid problems or diabetes. If these are left undiagnosed they can be potentially life threatening.

    You should speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about the long-term effects of excessive sweating, especially if you suspect that you may be suffering from secondary hyperhidrosis.

  • Do I need to change my lifestyle?

    Apart from the treatments mentioned above, there are some steps you can take in your daily life which might help to minimise the amount that you sweat:

    • Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and spicy foods are known to increase the activity of sweat glands. Other foods, such as fish, onion and garlic, tend to cause sweat to be particularly odorous.
    • Hair tends to both hold sweat and facilitate the growth of odour-causing bacteria. Consider shaving your armpits or other areas where you commonly notice sweat.
    • Synthetic materials may cause you to sweat more. Try wearing natural fabrics.
    • If you have pedal hyperhidrosis, change your socks regularly and ensure you do not have a fungal infection or excess dead skin.
    • Be wary of what colour of shirt you wear, as some colours show sweat very prominently. This will not reduce the amount of sweat, but may help to reduce some of the anxiety that comes from sweat patches being visible.
  • Can Excessive Sweating be 'cured'?

    Unfortunately at present, there is no actual cure for excessive sweating but there are several forms of treatment available which are effective at controlling the symptoms.

    There isn’t a single cure but a combination of preventative methods may help to ease symptoms. Many people with this condition learn to live with it by taking steps to reduce their excessive sweating and improve their quality of life.

  • What is Iontophoresis?

    This is another treatment for excessive sweating which uses water and electrical current as a means of shutting down the sweat glands which then reduces the amount of moisture produced.

    It is a painless form of treatment which can be done at home and helps to keep your excessive sweating at bay. It requires you to place your hands in bowls of water through which an electrical current is passed. This current reacts with minerals in the water which blocks your sweat glands.

Authored By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Leanne Sinclair

Leanne Sinclair


Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Leanne is a clinical pharmacist with years of experience working in pharmacy.

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