Cardiac & VascularCardiac and VascularDiseases and Conditions

Hyperhidrosis - Excessive Sweating

(Excessive Sweating)
  • Definition

    Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. It can be an embarrassing and serious problem. It can affect social, professional, and intimate relationships. The sweating may be in just one area. It is most common in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or armpits. In some cases the sweating can also affect the entire body. Hyperhidrosis is divided into two categories:
    • Primary hyperhidrosis — has no known cause
    • Secondary hyperhidrosis — caused by an underlying condition
    Sweat Gland
    Nuclus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Causes

    Primary hyperhidrosis may be triggered by:
    • High emotional states (eg, intense sadness, fear, anger, stress)
    • Spicy foods
    • Hot climates
    • Certain medicines:
      • Fever-lowering medicines
      • Insulin
      • Meperidine
      • Emetics (vomit-inducing medicines)
      • Alcohol
      • Pilocarpine
    Secondary hyperhidrosis may be caused by conditions such as:
    • Menopause
    • Fever
    • Infection
    • Cancer, such as lymphoma
    • Thyroid disease
    • Acromegaly or anterior pituitary tumor
    • Hypothalamic disorders
    • Adrenal tumor
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Nervous system disorders
    • Diabetes
    • Tuberculosis
    • Drug withdrawal
    • Certain medicines:
      • Fever-lowering medicines
      • Insulin
      • Meperidine
      • Emetics (vomit-inducing medicines)
      • Alcohol
      • Pilocarpine
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of secondary hyperhidrosis are the conditions that cause it (listed above).
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Sweaty palms of the hands and/or soles of the feet
    • Sweaty armpits
    • Change in amount of sweating
    • Change in pattern of sweating
    • Change in the odor associated with sweating
    • Stained clothing
  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There are no specific tests for this condition.
    A starch-iodine test is often used on armpits. It may be used to determine the areas of the most active sweat glands. Tests may be ordered if your doctor is concerned that you may have a specific medical condition.
  • Treatment

    Lifestyle Changes

    To help decrease the uncomfortable feeling and odor associated with sweating try:

    • Frequent clothing changes
    • Careful washing

    Topical Treatments

    A number of treatments can be applied to decrease sweating in a particular area. These include:

    • Aluminum chloride hexahydrate
    • Aluminum tetrachloride
    • Formalin compresses
    • Glutaraldehyde compresses
    • Iontophoresis (stimulation with electrical current) — needs to be repeated on a daily or weekly basis, eventually tapering off to every one to two weeks; may be used if prescription antiperspirants don't work

    Medications

    These are very rarely used due to their side effects, but may include:

    • Scopolamine
    • Phenoxybenzamine
    • Propantheline

    Botulinum A Neurotoxin

    This is the toxin produced by the bacteria that cause botulism. Injections of this toxin can decrease sweating in certain areas. It is often used on the palms of the hands and arm pits. The effect of one cycle of injections may last for six to eight months for most patients.

    Surgery

    • Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy — the destruction of nerves that stimulate sweating
    • Curettage — local removal of sweat glands via surgical scraping
    • Ultrasound
    • Liposuction techniques
  • Prevention

    There are no known ways to prevent hyperhidrosis.
  • RESOURCES

    Hyperhidrosis http://www.hyperhidrosis.ca/

    International Hyperhidrosis Society 

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Institute for Health Information http://www.cihi.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html

    References

    Baumgartner FJ. Surgical approaches and techniques in the management of severe hyperhidrosis. Thorac Surg Clin . 2008;18(2):167-181.

    Braunwald E, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Jameson JL, eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 15th ed. McGraw-Hill Professional; 2001.

    Commons GW, Lim AF. Treatment of Axillary Hyperhidrosis/Bromidrosis Using VASER Ultrasound. Aesthetic Plast Surg . 2009 Jan 3.

    Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 22nd ed. WB Saunders Company; 2004.

    Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 21st ed. WB Saunders Company; 2000.

    Kasper DL et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 16th ed. McGraw-Hill Professional; 2004.

    Local injection of botulinum toxin A for palmar hyperhidrosis: usefulness and efficacy in relation to severity. Yamashita N, Shimizu H, Kawada M, Yanagishita T, Watanabe D, Tamada Y, Matsumoto Y. J Dermatol . 2008;35(6):325-329.

    Primary Care Medicine . 4th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.

    Saenz JW, Sams RW 2nd, Jamieson B. FPIN's clinical inquiries. Treatment of hyperhidrosis. Am Fam Physician . 2011;83(4):465-466.

    Solish N, Bertucci V, Dansereau A, et al. A comprehensive approach to the recognition, diagnosis, and severity-based treatment of focal hyperhidrosis: recommendations of the Canadian Hyperhidrosis Advisory Committee. Dermatol Surg . 2007;33(8):908–923.

    Treatment of hyperhidrosis. Dermatologic Clinics . 1998 Oct.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
    • Review Date: 09/2012
    • Update Date: 00/93/2012
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