The Sweaty Days of Summer
According to the Eagles, in California you get “sweet summer sweat.” In New York, where humidity levels are sometimes as high as the temps, many of us think sweating is not so sweet. For some who suffer from hyperhidrosis, New York summers can make the condition almost intolerable.
Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, affects about 5% of the population. Although we have written about it most extensively on our website for men, it affects women as well. People of just about any age can suffer from hyperhidrosis, and people of all ethnicities can have the condition too.
Excessive Sweating: The Basics
The Mayo Clinic explains that the body’s nervous system triggers sweating when the temperature rises or a person feels nervous. In the most common form of hyperhidrosis, called primary focal hyperhidrosis, the nerves that trigger sweat glands become overactive. This means that sufferers can experience excessive sweating in New York winters as well as summers. During stressful situations, sweating becomes even worse.
Needless to say, the condition is quite embarrassing. It can cause people to avoid social and professional situations shun contact with others. The Mayo Clinic says it can prevent people from pursuing goals of all kinds. People who sweat profusely, according to the Mayo Clinic, are more prone to develop skin infections. We have noticed that sufferers often battle body odor as well.
Excessive Sweating Treatment Options
Primary hyperhidrosis most often affects the armpits, hands and feet. Sometimes other areas of the body, such as the face and groin, can also be affected. Treatment options can target one or more regions.
• Armpits: Most physicians elect to start patients with a prescription-strength deodorant/anti-perspirant. If this option fails, botulinum toxin injections may be helpful. We have treated many patients successfully with Botox for excessive sweating—although the results usually last several to many months, not indefinitely.
For a permanent solution to heavy sweating, New York patients can choose a procedure we developed called “sweat lipo.” In a brief, outpatient surgery, we use fine instruments of our own design to make tiny incisions in the armpit area and remove many (but not all) of the patient’s sweat glands. Sweating is greatly reduced, and most patients are back to work in just a day or two.
• Hands and feet: Patients with excessive sweating of the hands and feet often opt to try iontophoresis. This is treatment using a water bath of electrolytes and chemicals and a mild electric current. It’s painless and lasts less than half an hour. The minerals and ions in the water plug up the sweat ducts, thereby reducing sweating for up to several weeks. The treatment machine may be prescribed for patients to take home for use as needed.
Botox and similar products like Dysport can also be effective for hands and feet (and the face as well). We use numbing creams and ice packs to ease mild discomfort. Again, the effects generally last a period of months.
• Entire body: Since hyperhidrosis involves the nervous system, some patients find it useful to try to reduce stress and anxiety. Yoga, biofeedback and psychotherapy are helpful for some, though the results are variable and unpredictable.
Medications that impact the nervous system are also an option. They can help calm anxiety that leads to excessive sweating throughout the body, but because they reduce the body’s ability to cool, long-term use is not recommended.
When to Worry About Sweating
For patients who sweat profusely, a visit to the primary care physician is a good idea. Some cases are actually secondary hyperhidrosis, meaning the actual cause is a medical condition. The Mayo Clinic cites diabetes, menopause, nervous system disorders, thyroid issues and some cancers as a few examples.
Once underlying causes have been ruled out, we welcome patients with hyperhidrosis to our New York consultation room. We have treated many men and women quite successfully, and it’s truly rewarding to give patients their professional and personal lives back.
Contact us for more information. Fill out our online form or call 212-570-6080.