Excessive sweating

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…common, embarrassing, inconvenient…treatable.

Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) has been estimated to affect approximately 1-2% of the population. It can affect any body site, most commonly the palms, soles and armpits. It can be a localised or generalised problem. In the vast majority of cases there is no underlying medical or genetic abnormality. Very occasionally family members may have the same problem and it can sometimes be associated with certain medical conditions such as an overactive thyroid, which would need to be excluded.

The psychosocial impact of hyperhidrosis is often overlooked. Patients present to us with extreme emotional distress and occupational disability. Common problems encountered by patients include “only being able to wear black”, “embarrassed to shake clients’ hands”, “bringing several changes of clothes to work”, “poor self-esteem” and “lack of confidence to pursue an intimate relationship”.

Fortunately there are effective treatments available for hyperhidrosis, which vary according to the site and severity of the sweating.

Over the counter anti-perspirants containing aluminium chloride can be effective for localised areas, although occasionally they may cause somen skin irritation. Alternative treatments include prescribed tablets with a drying effect, iontophoresis (devices which pass low levels of electrical current across the skin whilst it is in contact with water - this is mainly used for sweating of the palms and soles) and Botox® injections which can provide a sustained benefit lasting up to 9 months.

Christina Vlachou