Hyperhidrosis: When perspiration becomes problematic

Do you feel that you perspire more than the average person? That you become drenched in sweat at the drop of a hat? If so, you may suffer from hyperhidrosis, in other words excessive perspiration. The good news is that there are treatments that can bring you some comfort.

Do you feel that you perspire more than the average person? That you become drenched in sweat at the drop of a hat? If so, you may suffer from hyperhidrosis, in other words excessive perspiration. The good news is that there are treatments that can bring you some comfort.

Perspiration is a mechanism that prevents your body from overheating. This is why we usually sweat more when it’s warm, when we’re exercising or when faced with situations that elicit stress, fear or anger. Persons with hyperhidrosis, however, seem to have hyperactive sweat glands in a specific area, usually the armpits, groin, face, hands or feet. The sweating is thus triggered for no apparent reason. It is estimated that 2 to 3 percent of the population suffers from hyperhidrosis.

There are various treatment options for reducing this excessive perspiration and the discomfort it causes.

Antiperspirants Excessive perspiration can be controlled with antiperspirants, substances that are applied to the skin to block the sweat ducts. Name-brand products are effective, but persons with hyperhidrosis should look for products containing 10 to 15 percent aluminium chloride, as these are usually more effective. Doctors sometimes prescribe products with a greater concentration of an active substance, which can be applied to affected zones at night. The disadvantage of these products is that they can irritate the skin and sometimes damage clothing. Deodorants, for their part, do not prevent perspiration but can be useful for reducing body odours.

Medication In some cases, medication can be used to reduce the production of sweat, but these drugs can have adverse effects such as dry mouth, dizziness and urinary problems. This is the reason they are not the first treatment choice.

Iontophoresis This procedure helps temporarily deactivate the sweat glands. It is mainly used to treat excessive sweating of the hands and feet. During the procedure, the hands or feet are placed in containers of water through which a mild electric current is running. The intensity of the current is gradually increased until the patient feels a slight tingling sensation. Treatments last six to twenty minutes each and must be repeated regularly. Adverse effects are rare but can include dry or cracked skin.

Botulinum toxin type A (e.g. Botox®) When topical products prove insufficient at reducing perspiration, a botulinum toxin injection in the armpit temporarily blocks the nerves that stimulate perspiration and may produce a marked improvement in symptoms. It may take a few days for the full effect to be observed, but the effect then persists for a few months.

Surgery In certain severe cases, minor surgery may be required. This can involve cutting the nerve signal that commands sweat glands to perspire, or the extraction of certain sweat glands. Surgery provides lasting symptom relief.

Some tips Certain non-pharmacological measures can be useful when dealing with excessive perspiration.


- If possible, avoid factors that worsen or trigger perspiration, such as spicy foods, alcohol and coffee.


- Wear clothing that is loose in the armpit area and avoid synthetic fibres such as Lycra and nylon.


- If the excessive perspiration is mainly in the armpit area, single-use underarm pads are available on the market; they are designed to adhere to the inside of a shirt and to absorb excess sweat.


- If the excessive perspiration is in the foot area, it is recommended that the same footwear not be worn for two consecutive days. By alternating between two pairs, the shoes will have enough time to dry. Carrying an extra pair of socks and changing mid-day can also improve comfort.

In very rare cases, hyperhidrosis can be a symptom of another illness. It is therefore important to see a doctor if the excessive perspiration is accompanied by chest pain or pressure, weight loss or a rapid heart rate, or if occurs mainly at night.

Don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you suffer from excessive perspiration. They can help you find solutions to control it and make you more comfortable.

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