What causes excessive sweating and what you can do about it?
Our skin regulates body temperature through blood vessels and through the process of sweating. The skin functions as a thermostat and sweating is a normal mechanism designed to cool the body.
We sweat more when our environment is hot, when we exercise or in response to emotions such as stress and anxiety.
When your body’s temperature rises your brain sends signals along nerves called “sympathetic nerves” to the small sweat glands in the skin.
Two Types of Hyperhidrosis
Some people can have excessive sweating that is not necessarily related to heat or exercise.
They may sweat so much that it soaks through their clothes or drips off their hands. This is called hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis is divided into two types, primary or localised and secondary or generalised.
1) Primary or localised hyperhidrosis affects certain body sites such as palms, soles, underarm skin, face, and scalp. The cause is not known and often begins in childhood or adolescence.
2) Secondary or generalised hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating affecting the whole body caused by another medical condition or is a side effect of a medication. Sometimes no cause can be found.
Source of social stress and strain
Excessive sweating has a negative impact on personal hygiene, personal well-being, interpersonal relationships, work productivity and leisure activities. Symptoms of visible sweat including wet clothes and clammy handshakes can be embarrassing.
Hand sweating produces problems with holding objects, turning door knobs, opening jars, working with hand tools and writing on paper.
A recent study highlighted problems experienced with touch technologies, such as computer keyboards, mobile phones, computer mouse and touch screen.
Symptoms of visible sweat including wet clothes and clammy handshakes can be embarrassing.Hand sweating produces problems with holding objects, turning door knobs, opening jars, working with hand tools and writing on paper.
Options to discuss with your doctor
It is important to talk to your doctor for assessment and discuss medical treatments such as prescription antiperspirants, medications, iontophoresis, Botox injections and surgical techniques (which can carry a number of risks).
There are some self-help measures which may improve your symptoms but not cure your hyperhidrosis.
Ten Top Tips to Manage Hyperhidrosis
- Washing regularly avoiding soap based products
- Use an antiperspirant and not just a deodorant, there are stronger antiperspirants on prescription
- Wear clothes made from natural fibres such as cotton, linen, wool or silk
- Avoid restrictive clothing, wear loose fitting clothes
- Black or white coloured clothes will minimise signs of sweating
- Changes of clothes may be necessary during the day
- Wear socks made from natural fibres and change regularly, socks made from textiles incorporating silver claim to reduce odours
- Choose leather shoes or sandals to allow your feet breath and also use special absorbent insoles
- Adhesive absorbent underarm pads for clothing
- Try to avoid situations which may trigger your sweating
For more on hyperhidrosis read the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) Patient Information Leaflet.
Hyperhidrosis can be a source of social stress and psychological strain; if you have questions about your skin contact the ISF Helpline for one-to-one information and support.