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What is hyperhidrosis?

The excessive sweating associated with hyperhidrosis is normally most active in the hands, feet, armpits, and the groin because of their relatively high concentration of sweat glands.

  • Focal hyperhidrosis: When the excessive sweating is localized. For example, palmoplantar hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating of the palms and soles.
  • Generalized hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating affects the entire body.

Hyperhidrosis may be present from birth or might develop later in life. However, most cases of excessive sweating tend to start during a person’s teenage years.

The condition can be due to an underlying health condition, or have no apparent cause:

  • Primary idiopathic hyperhidrosis: “Idiopathic” means “of unknown cause.” In the majority of cases, the hyperhidrosis is localized.
  • Secondary hyperhidrosis: The person sweats too much because of an underlying health condition, such as obesity, gout, menopause, a tumour, mercury poisoning, diabetes mellitus, or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).

According to the International Hyperhidrosis Association, approximately 2.8 percent of Americans are affected by hyperhidrosis; that’s around 7.8 million people.

For some, hyperhidrosis symptoms are so severe that it becomes embarrassing, causing discomfort and anxiety. The patient’s career choices, free time activities, personal relationships, self-image, and emotional well-being may be affected.

Fortunately, there are several options which can treat symptoms effectively. The biggest challenge in treating hyperhidrosis is the significant number of people who do not seek medical advice, either due to embarrassment or because they do not know that effective treatment exists.

Symptoms

Hyperhidrosis is defined as sweating that disrupts normal activities. Episodes of excessive sweating occur at least once a week for no clear reason and have an effect on social life or daily activities.

Signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis may include:

  • Clammy or wet palms of the hands
  • Clammy or wet soles of the feet
  • Frequent sweating
  • Noticeable sweating that soaks through clothing

People with hyperhidrosis might experience the following:

  • Irritating and painful skin problems, such as fungal or bacterial infections
  • Worrying about having stained clothing
  • Reluctant to make physical contact
  • Self-conscious
  • Socially withdrawn, sometimes leading to depression
  • Select employment where physical contact or human interaction is not a job requirement
  • Spend a large amount of time each day dealing with sweat, such as changing clothes, wiping, placing napkins or pads under the arms, washing, wearing bulky, or dark clothes
  • Worry more than other people about body odour

Experts are not certain why, but excessive sweating during sleep is not common for people with primary hyperhidrosis (the type not linked to any underlying medical condition).

 

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