Your body’s normal cooling mechanism is sweating, but some people sweat excessively – a condition called hyperhidrosis. The excessive sweating usually occurs on the hands, soles of the feet and underarms. Symptoms of this condition include frequent sweating that is so heavy your clothes become soaked with perspiration. You sweat even when you have not been exercising. Your hands and feet are clammy or even dripping with sweat. Hyperhidrosis is normally accompanied by a feeling or warmth, similar to a hot flash; if you have cold sweats, it may be a symptoms of a heart attack or severe anxiety. Hyperhidrosis can be focal – meaning it affects your palms, the soles of your feet and your underarms – or generalized. Focal hyperhidrosis may be genetic, as it tends to run in families. Generalized hyperhidrosis may be related to menopause, low blood sugar, some diseases or a side effect from medications. Medical conditions that may occur as a result of hyperhidrosis include fungal nail infections, bacterial skin infections, warts, eczema and skin rashes.
Treatments for hyperhidrosis include prescription antiperspirants, anticholinergic drugs, iontophoresis, laser therapy, surgery and Botox. For light to moderate hyperhidrosis, prescription antiperspirants with aluminum chloride are the first choice. The antiperspirant is applied to completely dry skin each night and washed off in the morning. Anticholinergic drugs block acetylcholine, a chemical in your body that stimulates the sweat gland. Anticholinergics may have side effects such as dry mouth or constipation. Intophoresis is a procedure that delivers a low level of electrical current to the hands, feet or armpits while the body is immersed in water. It is performed for about 15 to 30 minutes daily for two weeks and then less frequently for maintenance, which can be done at home. Botox can block the nerves that make the sweat glands work. It can be painful and the results last about four months. Side effects such as weakness of the hand muscles may occur. Laser therapy is used to destroy sweat glands in the armpit area and may be as much as 90% effective.