As pesky and plain gross as it may be, sweating is actually a good thing. It’s the body’s way of checking internal temperature and cooling it down. We have more than three million sweat glands in our body, including in our armpits, face, palms, soles, and scalp. They work to keep body temperature regulated to the right degree. But sometimes sweating isn’t normal. In fact, a common disorder known as hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can cause the body to sweat erratically. We asked top medical professionals to reveal signs that your body may be overdoing it.
Signs of Sweating Too Much
First things first: If you think you’re sweating too much, you probably are, but that doesn’t mean the root cause is something detrimental to your health. Everyone sweats differently and for a myriad of reasons. Most of us will have days we sweat more. It’s usually triggered by what we do, drink, eat or the surrounding temperature, according to Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., a urologist at Orlando Health and co-director of The PUR Clinic in Clermont, Florida. Excess sweating, however, either occurs in certain areas of the body (primary hyperhidrosis) or is general throughout the body (secondary hyperhidrosis). Some signs include changing your clothes multiple times a day, being self-conscious about raising your hand regardless of your deodorant use or daily shower, and limiting your social interactions as a result of your anxiety about sweating.
You can reduce normal sweating with conventional treatments, such as antiperspirants, medication, or even Botox injections. However, secondary reasons require a little more work up and medical evaluation, Dr. Brahmbhatt says. “The doctor will rule out causes like obesity, diabetes, or thyroid issues through a history, physical, and labs,” he says. “If there is a specific cause find (e.g., hyperthyroid), then treatments of the disease can be initiated.”
Treatment Options for Sweating
Here are a few doctor-approve solutions worth trying with the advice and guidance of your medical professional.
Strong antiperspirants that physically plug the sweat ducts can be effective in controlling even excessive sweating, according to Eric Presser, M.D., thoracic surgeon, member of First California Physician Partners, and associate professor at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine. “Products containing 10-20 percent aluminum chloride hexahydrate are the first line of treatment for underarm sweating,” he says. “Some patients are prescribed a product containing a higher dose of aluminum chloride. This is applied nightly to the affected areas.”
“Anticholinergic drugs, such as glycopyrrolate (Robinul, Robinul-Forte), help to prevent the stimulation of sweat glands,” Dr. Presser says. “Although effective for some patients, these drugs have not been studied as well as other treatments.” It’s also worth noting that some of these medications come with unwanted side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, and difficulty urinating.
This FDA-approved procedure uses electricity to temporarily turn off the sweat glands and is most effective for sweating of the hands and feet. You place your hands and feet into water, and then a gentle current of electricity passes through, explains Dr. Presser. The electricity gradually increases until the patient feels a slight tingling sensation. “The therapy lasts about ten to 20 minutes and requires several sessions. Side effects include skin cracking and blisters, although rare,” he adds.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) is an FDA-approved treatment for severe underarm sweating. “Small doses of purified botulinum toxin injected into the underarm temporarily block the nerves that stimulate sweating,” Dr. Presser says, although side effects include injection-site pain and flu-like symptoms. If you are considering Botox, he recommends talking to your doctor in detail beforehand. “Botox used for sweating of the palms can cause mild but temporary weakness and intense pain.”
“In severe cases, a surgeon may recommend a minimally invasive surgical procedure called sympathectomy when other treatments fail,” Dr. Presser explains. “Thoracic sympathectomy is a surgical interruption of the sympathetic nerves responsible for sweating and is intended to destroy part of the nerve supply to the sweat glands in the skin.”
The procedure turns off the signal that tells the body to sweat excessively. “The surgeon inserts a special endoscopic instrument into the chest between the ribs just below the armpit,” he says. “He or she deflates the lung to get a better visualize and destroy the nerves.”
As with any surgery, be sure to get answers to all your questions. That way you’ll understand the procedure and feel comfortable with your surgeon.