Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

Classified as excessive sweating, hyperhidrosis can be quite common.

Everyone needs to sweat to cool the body. Those with hyperhidrosis appear to have overactive sweat glands and they may sweat even when their body isn’t in need of cooling. This may cause embarrassment and frustration. Excessive sweating can be an uncomfortable, yet treatable, medical condition.

Causes of Hyperhidrosis

The problem can be primary, meaning that the cause is not another medical problem. When the cause is unknown, dermatologists refer to it as idiopathic. Sometimes, hyperhidrosis is secondary, meaning that it stems from another medical problem or is a side effect of a medication.

Excess sweating is known as either focal (occurring on certain body parts) or generalized (large areas of the body sweats).

There are three types of hyperhidrosis:

Primary focal hyperhidrosis most often affects the feet, hands, underarms, head and face. Typically, it affects both sides of the body equally. This type often starts in childhood when it affects the hands and feet. It starts during puberty when it affects the underarms.

Generalized idiopathic hyperhidrosis is when large areas of the body sweat and the cause is not clear. Treatment for this is most often oral medicine.

Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis results from medicine or a medical problem. Conditions that can cause it include menopause, an overactive thyroid, diabetic nerve disease (peripheral neuropathy), obesity, and stroke. Medications for blood pressure and depression can also cause this type of sweating.


To ensure that you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment, you should see a dermatologist or other physician. Treatment methods will depend on the cause of your excessive sweating.

Some treatments include:

Antiperspirants – available with or without a prescription, these sprays, gels, roll-ons and lotions decrease sweating. The most common ingredient is aluminum chloride hexahydrate. Apply the antiperspirant to the affected area at bedtime on dry skin. Wash off the product in the morning. Some people find that occlusion (covering the area) with plastic wrap after application can be helpful on the palms and soles, but may be too irritating for the arm pits or under the breasts.

Iontophoresis – used to treat sweaty hands and feet, this treatment requires the patient to immerse the hands or feet in a shallow pan filled with water. A medical device sends a low-voltage current through the water and temporarily shuts off the sweat glands. When used every other day, it takes about six to ten treatments to decrease sweating. The treatments must be repeated to maintain results.

Botulinum Toxin Type A – a weak strength of this medication is injected into the underarms, soles and palms by the dermatologist. Other parts of the body may receive these injections as well. The medication blocks the release of a chemical in the body (acetylcholine) that stimulates the sweat glands. This treatment may last four-to-eight months, at which time a re-treatment will be needed.

Oral medication – taken by mouth, the “anticholinergic” medications glycopyrrolate and propantheline bromide prevent the stimulation of sweat glands. Medicines called beta-blockers may also be a treatment option. Since all medications have possible side effects, the benefits should outweigh the potential risks.

Sympathectomy – this procedure interrupts the nervous system impulses to the sweat glands and is used mainly to treat the palms. A potential side effect is “compensatory sweating” which is excess sweating that may be even worse than hyperhidrosis and can occur in up to 80% of patients. Therefore, this procedure should be an option for patients who had had other treatments that have failed and for patients that fully understand the risk.

Surgery – underarm sweat glands can be removed by curettage (scraping), liposuction, or surgical excision (cutting). There may be scars or compensatory sweating after surgery.

Meet with a Dermatologist to Learn More About Your Hyperhidrosis Today

If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, our clinicians can help. From an accurate diagnosis to treatment options that work for you, we will guide you through how your excessive sweating can come to an end. Use the buttons below to find a clinician or location near you that treats excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).

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