Hyperhidrosis refers to the phenomenon of excessive sweating that is not related to exercise or heat. It happens to individuals from all types of climates and tends to affect areas such as the hands, feet, underarms, and the face, and usually affects both sides of the body. Hyperhidrosis can be classified into either localised hyperhidrosis (i.e. affecting only one part of the body) or generalised hyperhidrosis (affecting the whole body). The amount of sweating in hyperhidrosis tends to be significantly higher than one's normal amount and can result in itching, body odour, skin discolouration, staining of clothes, and in some cases, the soaking of clothes.
Sweating is controlled by the brain, which sends signals along nerves to small sweat glands all over the body. When sweat evaporates from our body, this helps to cool the body down. Sweating is a natural body mechanism. Increased sweating is normal in situations such as a rise in temperature, or emotions like anxiety. However, hyperhidrosis means you sweat in excessive amounts.
There are many causes of hyperhidrosis. Oftentimes, the cause is unknown, but it is proposed that people with hyperhidrosis may have higher body core temperatures than others. Sometimes, hyperhidrosis can be due to medical conditions such as an overactive thyroid gland, diabetes, nerve irritation, or a side effect of medications. Complications of excessive sweating include increased risk of skin infections, warts, and other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Hyperhidrosis can also lead to a reduced quality of life, as excessive sweating may impede on daily functioning, hobbies, and work (e.g. writing, learning musical instruments, playing sports, networking and socialising). These impediments can also lead to increased embarrassment and anxiety, and instances of depression.
Overall, hyperhidrosis is relatively rare, affecting around 1% of the population.
However, the prevalence of hyperhidrosis may be higher in those with certain medical conditions. These diseases might lead to a change in the anatomy of the sweat glands and the nerves that supply it, resulting in hyperhidrosis in a fair proportion of those with the disease.
Hyperhidrosis can affect everyone. There is a wide range of age of onset, ranging from infants, to those in their teenage years to young adulthood, and even amongst the elderly. Hyperhidrosis affects both sexes equally. There are many reasons why someone can present with concerns of hyperhidrosis, including concerns of their excessive sweating being an occupational hazard, affecting their social life, or simply because they deem the excessive sweating to be affecting their overall way of life.
It is to be of note that at whatever age you are affected by hyperhidrosis, the condition tends to last a long time and may go on for years. If it occurs in children, they may not be able to outgrow hyperhidrosis.
You cannot predict when you might get an episode of hyperhidrosis. There are many factors that can lead to it and everyone has different triggers. However, with good management techniques and proper guidance on your condition, good symptom control can be achieved, and effects on daily life can be minimised. Some ways people manage this condition include having multiple changes of clothing available and showering multiple times a day. Other medical therapies are also discussed below, and all provide valid options to help those with hyperhidrosis.
Most people sweat when they exercise, are in a warm environment, or when they are anxious or stressed. However, hyperhidrosis means that the amount of sweating far exceeds that of normal sweating.
Different people experience hyperhidrosis differently — some may get it in their hands, while others get it in places such as their feet, underarms, and face. The frequency of excessive sweating may differ as well, with some experiencing it weekly and others getting it every day, multiple times a day.
Hyperhidrosis is lifelong and usually cannot be cured unless there is an underlying medical condition behind it e.g. thyroid problems that can be cured. Resolving said medical issues will help to treat hyperhidrosis along with it. However, primary hyperhidrosis (i.e. hyperhidrosis that does not have a known specific cause) does not go away by itself.
However, there are ways to treat hyperhidrosis. These treatment modalities can be split into medical and surgical procedures.
Medical treatment: temporary relief for a maximum of 6 months
Surgical treatment: permanent, definitive solution