Definition: A medical condition in which a person sweats excessively.
Often, teenagers undergoing puberty are affected by this. Commonly affected areas of the body include the:
Hyperhidrosis comes in three principle forms: Generalised, Localised and Emotionally Induced.
Generalised: Affects the entire body.
Localised: Usually, this affects the armpits, groin, face. For women, it could also affect the area below the breasts.
Emotionally Induced: Otherwise known as ‘Episodic Hyperhidrosis‘ is restricted to affect armpits palms and soles.
Hyperhidrosis is understood to be of an unknown cause or secondary reaction to fever, metabolic disorder, menopause, alcoholism, Hodgkin’s disease, various types of cancer, tuberculosis or the side effect of using certain medications.
Most common hyperhidrosis-related medications include: Venlafaxine, propranolol, pilocarpine, tricyclic antidepressants and physostigmine.
The sufferers of hyperhidrosis often begin to notice their symptoms during childhood or even during their adolescence. It is very unusual for this disorder to be developed during your adulthood.
If you notice that hyperhidrosis develops during your adulthood, you must consult with a doctor for a full diagnosis to look for any potential illnesses, medication side effects or metabolic disorder.
The diagnosis of hyperhidrosis is given by patient report which is then followed by a physical examination. Very often, physicians are able to directly observe the excessive sweating.
Doctors could also perform an iodine starch test. In this procedure, the body parts of the sufferers which show excessive sweating are sprayed with a mixture of soluble starch and iodine. Parts of the skin producing sweat will turn black.
Afterwards, the doctor proceeds further examinations to determine if the excessive sweating is due to another disease or disorder.
Rather than having a clear cause, hyperhidrosis, in most cases, is the result of incorrectly functioning nervous system that controls sweating. This dysfunctional cause is called the primary hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis with unidentifiable cause is know as secondary hyperhidrosis. This is triggered by many different factors. Most common ones include:
- menopause or pregnancy
- low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia)
- certain medications
- a hyperactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
When Do You Have Excessive Sweating?
Of course, there is no strict boundary to determine what ‘Excessive Sweating’ is. However, if you are sweating to the point where it interferes quite significantly with your daily life, you may be very likely to have hyperhidrosis.
You may be suffering from hyperhidrosis if you:
- deliberately avoid having physical contacts with anyone because you feel insecure about your sweating
- refuse to take part in certain physical activities because you fear that it could make your sweating worse
- have difficulties at work or school due to excessive sweating – for example you, you have trouble using the computer keyboard or mouse, have trouble holding pens
- find that excessive sweating simply negatively impacts your day-to-day activities
- spend a great fraction of your time in coping with excessive sweating – for example you frequently take showers and change your clothes
- become increasingly self-conscious
Statistics: Who Is Affected?
Hyperhidrosis is nothing rare. Estimatedly, it has been reported that it affects 2% of the world population. This means that there are more than 6 million people in the US who is suffering from hyperhidrosis. In the UK, there are 1.2 million people with hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis can develop at any age, although as mentioned, primary hyperhidrosis typically starts during childhood or soon after puberty.
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Written by Dr. Hans
King’s College London (MD), Dermatology