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Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis) is excessive sweating that occurs even when the temperature isn't hot and you're not exercising. In some people who have hyperhidrosis, the sweat literally drips off their hands.

Hyperhidrosis usually affects the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and underarms. Besides disrupting normal daily activities, hyperhidrosis can cause social anxiety or embarrassment.

One of the first options for treatment involves using prescription-strength antiperspirants on the affected areas. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgery either to remove the sweat glands or to disconnect the nerves responsible for the overproduction of sweat.

Symptoms Causes Complications

Most people sweat when they exercise or exert themselves, are in a hot environment, or are nervous, anxious or under stress. The excessive sweating experienced with hyperhidrosis far exceeds such normal sweating.

Hyperhidrosis usually affects the hands, feet, underarms and sometimes the face. Rarely, the entire body is affected. The excessive sweat may soak through clothes or drip off your hands. Episodes usually occur at least once a week without an obvious reason.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine
  • You suddenly begin to sweat more than usual
  • You experience night sweats for no apparent reason

Sweating is your body's mechanism to cool itself. Your nervous system automatically triggers your sweat glands when your body temperature rises. Sweating also normally occurs, especially on your palms, when you're nervous.

In hyperhidrosis, the nerves responsible for triggering your sweat glands become overactive and call for more perspiration even when it's not needed. The problem worsens if you're under stress or nervous.

The type of hyperhidrosis that occurs primarily in your palms and soles may have a genetic component, because it sometimes clusters in families. If you have excessive sweating all over your body, it may be caused by an underlying health factor, such as:

  • Certain medications
  • Menopause hot flashes
  • Low blood sugar
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Infectious disease

Complications of hyperhidrosis include:

  • Infections. People who sweat profusely are more prone to skin infections. These infections can range from ringworm to warts.
  • Other skin conditions. Certain skin conditions, such as eczema and skin rashes, occur more frequently in people with hyperhidrosis. Excessive sweating may worsen skin inflammation.
  • Social and emotional effects. Having clammy or dripping hands and perspiration-soaked clothes can be embarrassing. Palm sweat can soak into paperwork, affecting occupational and educational pursuits.
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