Hyperhidrosis is a term describing excessive sweating. This excessive sweating can often affect confidence, lead to embarrassment, and increase social anxiety.
Hyperhidrosis affects around 1-3% of the American population. While it is perfectly normal to sweat when you are physically exerting your body, under stress, or in hot weather, hyperhidrosis is different from that.
What Is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis refers to abnormal and excessive sweating. The eccrine sweat glands, which are the main sweat glands of the body, are present in higher numbers at the palms, soles, armpits, and face. Hence, these are the areas commonly affected by hyperhidrosis.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis. The first type, primary hyperhidrosis, primarily affects the hands, feet, face, and armpits. This condition is bilateral and symmetric, meaning it affects both sides of your body equally. It commonly begins in childhood or teenage years and can either be lifelong or get better with age.
The second type of hyperhidrosis is known as secondary hidrosis. This condition is less common compared to primary hyperhidrosis. Besides that, it is likely to affect either one side of the body or both sides but unequally.
How Do I Know If I Have Hyperhidrosis?
While it can be hard to identify if your sweating is considered excessive or normal, here are some signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis that may suggest you have the condition.
- Excessive sweating that can be embarrassing or disruptive of your day-to-day activities
- Damp and stained clothing that must be frequently changed
- Excessive sweat that drips off your hands or leaves marks on fabric and paper
- Inability to write properly due to excessive sweating of the hands
- Tendency to experience eczema/dermatitis
- Unpleasant smell from feet
- Prone to feet infections such as tinea pedis
What Triggers Hyperhidrosis?
Sweating is a way your body can cool itself. When your body temperature rises, your nervous system responds by signaling your sweat glands to release sweat.
In hyperhidrosis, the receptors on your eccrine glands (main sweat glands of the body) are overstimulated. This happens as the nerves signaling those sweat glands are overactive. Thus, the sweat glands produce excessive amounts of sweat, even when no stimuli trigger sweating, such as being in the sun or exercising. In addition to that, being under pressure or feeling nervous can often aggravate this condition.
Secondary hyperhidrosis is easier to identify as it is usually associated with medical conditions or medications. For example, some medications such as antidepressants or insulin are linked to secondary hyperhidrosis. Additionally, medical conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and hyperthyroidism may cause secondary hyperhidrosis.
Excessive sweating may sometimes be due to an underlying condition. Hence, if you are worried, you can visit your doctor to get a checkup.
Will Hyperhidrosis Go Away?
This condition may improve for some people as they get older. However, for many others, it may be a lifelong condition. Even if your sweating improves after treatment, there is still a chance of it recurring.
How Do You Make Hyperhidrosis Go Away?
There are many treatment options available, but some may not work for you or work inconsistently. If your hyperhidrosis is due to an underlying medical condition, your doctor will treat that first. Other than that, if a medication is the cause of your excessive sweating, you can discuss with your treating physician if other alternatives are suitable.
- Use an antiperspirant.
- Wear highly breathable and loose-fitting clothing.
- Change clothes and footwear frequently to prevent skin disorders.
- Bathe daily if possible and dry your body, toes, feet, and hands thoroughly after bathing.
- Wear breathable socks and shoes made from natural materials. Besides that, socks containing silver or copper may aid in preventing infection and lessening odor.
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga may help combat stress and anxiety.
- Change your socks often.
- Go barefoot whenever possible, or air your foot from time to time when wearing occlusive footwear.
- Prescription antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride
- Prescription creams containing glycopyrrolate
- Medications called oral anticholinergics to block the nerve to reduce sweating. Unfortunately, these may cause side effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and trouble urinating.
- Oral medications called beta-blockers may lessen the physical effects caused by anxiety.
- Antidepressants may decrease sweating and help with the anxiety linked to sweating.
- Botulinum toxin injections temporarily block the nerves that are causing excessive sweating. This type of injection may be painful to some people and is given every 6-12 months. They are approved for hyperhidrosis that affects the underarm area.
- Sympathectomy, or nerve surgery, is reserved for the most severe cases as there is a risk of complications. During this procedure, the surgeon will cut or block the nerves that control sweating. Some complications include pneumonia and persistent pain.
- Surgical removal of sweat glands can be done under a local anesthetic. The sweat glands under the armpits can be removed via several methods to combat excessive sweating.
Bottomline: Managing Hyperhidrosis
The treatment for hyperhidrosis has advanced over the years. Some people may outgrow this condition, but some others may not.
Because of the nature of this condition, you may experience some embarrassment or feel uncomfortable in social settings. Other than that, you may feel less confident, frustrated, or anxious. If you feel this way, you may wish to seek your doctor’s advice for treatment options and talk to a counselor about your worries and concerns.
Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) For Hyperhidrosis
Is hyperhidrosis genetic?
Genetic factors are thought to have some role in primary hyperhidrosis, but this is not well-understood yet. Occasionally, hyperhidrosis runs in the family.
Is hyperhidrosis a mental disorder?
Hyperhidrosis itself is not a mental disorder, but it can be linked to an anxiety disorder. Hyperhidrosis can be a secondary symptom of a social anxiety disorder. A study has shown that up to 32% of people with social anxiety disorder experience hyperhidrosis. 
Can diet affect hyperhidrosis?
Spicy foods can trigger attacks of sweating. People with hyperhidrosis should also try to avoid caffeinated foods and drinks. Caffeine can further stimulate the nervous system and cause sweat glands to produce more sweat. Additionally, caffeine may raise anxiety or nervousness, which is linked to increased sweating.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Hyperhidrosis. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperhidrosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20367152#:~:text=Hyperhidrosis%20
- Oakley, A. (2015). Hyperhidrosis. Retrieved from https://dermnetnz.org/topics/hyperhidrosis/
- Brackenrich, J., & Fagg, C. (2021). Hyperhidrosis. In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing