Hyperhidrosis (say: “hy-per-hy-droh-siss”) is excessive sweating. While everyone sweats when they’re hot, exercising or feeling stress, people who have hyperhidrosis sweat heavily and sweat most of the time, even without the usual triggers.
If you have hyperhidrosis, you may sweat all over your body, or you may sweat mainly on your hands, feet, armpits, face and genital area. Your clothes may be soaked with sweat. Your skin may become white and wrinkled, or red and irritated from the moisture.
Often, dampness from the sweat is accompanied by odor. Sweat by itself doesn’t usually have an odor. But once it is on your skin, bacteria and other germs begin to break it down. That is why hyperhidrosis can cause body odor.
Hyperhidrosis can have an unpleasant effect on your life. You may feel awkward and uncomfortable in social situations. You may be self-conscious because of dampness and odor. You may also be afraid to touch or shake hands with people or raise your arm to reach for something. You may feel embarrassed about being in public, spending time with your friends and going to work or school. These are very normal reactions to having hyperhidrosis.
Too often, people suffer with hyperhidrosis without seeking help. Perhaps you may think it is silly or embarrassing. But hyperhidrosis can have a negative impact on your life, causing social isolation, depression and anxiety. Plus, it can be a sign of a serious health problem. You are wise to seek your doctor’s advice. Contact your doctor if:
There are 2 types of hyperhidrosis.
Primary hyperhidrosis (also called focal hyperhidrosis) tends to affect both sides of the body and occurs on the feet, hands, underarms, head and face. Sometimes, it affects larger areas of the body. It seems to run in families, often begins in childhood and occurs during waking hours. It is usually very hard to determine the cause of primary hyperhidrosis.
More often, hyperhidrosis is caused by something else. This is called secondary hyperhidrosis (also called generalized hyperhidrosis). It tends to involve large areas of the body, and may happen both during the day and at night. Secondary hyperhidrosis may be caused by:
Your doctor will probably ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. The signs of hyperhidrosis may be obvious to your doctor and no testing may be needed. You may also be checked for other problems that could be causing your symptoms. For example, your doctor may order urine and blood tests to check for conditions such as an overactive thyroid and low blood sugar. If your doctor suggests tests specifically for hyperhidrosis, the tests simply measure the level of moisture on your skin.
A number of things can help you deal with hyperhidrosis day to day.
Many treatment options are available to help control hyperhidrosis. Below are some examples. Talk to your doctor about what might be right for you.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff