What is Hyperhidrotic?

D. Jeffress

Hyperhidrotic is a medical term that is used to describe a patient who sweats excessively. It is a fairly common ailment that usually does not have a significant underlying cause or result in major health complications. A person may simply have overactive sweat glands in his or her underarms, on the palms of the hands, or elsewhere on the body. The condition can often be remedied with high-strength prescription antiperspirants, oral medications, or outpatient clinical procedures, but serious cases may require surgery to permanently disable the sweat glands.

A strong antiperspirant may help people who are hyperhidrotic.
A strong antiperspirant may help people who are hyperhidrotic.

Most cases of hyperhidrosis do not have clear causes. The condition may have a genetic component based on evidence of excessive sweating running in families. In some cases, certain medications, major life changes, and emotional stress can trigger temporary hyperhidrotic episodes. A hyperhidrotic reaction can occasionally be a symptom of a potentially serious underlying disorder, so it is important to visit a doctor if excessive sweating comes about suddenly or becomes a persistent problem.

A prescription-strength antiperspirant may be necessary to control excessive sweating.
A prescription-strength antiperspirant may be necessary to control excessive sweating.

The most common treatment for underarm hyperhidrotic problems is a prescription antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride hexahydrate. Doctors usually suggest applying the antiperspirant nightly for about one week, and single weekly treatments thereafter. Aluminum chloride molecules help prevent sweating by blocking open pores on the skin. People who have especially sweaty hands and feet may be prescribed oral drugs called anticholinergics, which inhibit nerve impulses that normally trigger sweat glands to produce moisture. There are risks of allergic reactions and other side effects with both oral drugs and topical antiperspirants, and it is important to report any unusual responses to the prescribing doctor to make sure serious complications do not arise.

Hyperhidrotic patients who do not respond well to medical therapy may benefit from botulinum toxin injections or iontophoresis procedures. Botulinum toxin effectively paralyzes the nerves leading to overactive sweat glands, thereby reducing or stopping their output. A patient typically needs to receive a new injection every three to six months to achieve lasting results. Another clinical option, iontophoresis, involves delivering a steady electrical current to an affected area of skin while it is submerged in water. The procedure supposedly blocks sweat gland activity for at least one day at a time, and patients often need to undergo iontophoresis treatments daily for several weeks to achieve maximum results.

Whenever all other treatments fail, hyperhidrosis may be treated surgically. A surgeon can perform an operation called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy to sever the nerves that control sweat gland activity. The procedure is highly effective, generally considered safe, and offers a permanent solution to excessive sweating problems.

Someone who sweats excessively may be referred to as hyperhidrotic.
Someone who sweats excessively may be referred to as hyperhidrotic.

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