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How Much Sweating Is Excessive?

Why Some of Us Sweat Too Much continued...

This problem may be hardwired in some people. Hyperhidrosis tends to run in families -- up to two-thirds of people have it their family, says Solish. And it tends to start in puberty.

Pariser tells WebMD that hyperhydrosis tends to show itself in three to four areas: Under the arms, on the hands, then on the feet, face, and scalp. But excessive sweating can occur all over the body. The sweating is usually symmetric, meaning that both sides of the body are affected similarly.

Unfortunately, he says, “Sweating isn’t something people want to talk about. There’s a stigma with excessive sweating." So, young people often don't get treatment that could help with this embarrassing problem. "When it starts in the teens and they bring it up to parents or doctors, it’s often blown off as a teen whose body is changing," says Pariser. "Then they think there is something wrong when it’s a medical condition that is treatable.”

How Much Is Too Much Sweat?

When it comes to diagnosing hyperhidrosis, it’s so much not the quantity of sweat, but how it impacts the patient’s quality of life, Solish says.

Someone could sweat two times or eight times the normal amounts, but both of those people still have hyperhidrosis, he says.

“It’s too much if you have to think about your sweating and have to act in some way,” Pariser says.

For example, someone with hyperhidrosis may only wear dark clothing, or bring three of the same shirt to work to change during the day to hide the sweat. Some people even stuff paper towels or maxi pads in the underarms. If they have sweaty hands, they may always hold a wet drink to have an excuse not to shake hands in social situations like a cocktail party, he says.

Relief for Excessive Sweating

A number of treatment options are available for those with hyperhidrosis. Dermatologists will start first with prescription strength antiperspirants.

If this doesn’t work, doctors will try iontophoresis, which is treatment with low-level electrical currents, or botulinum toxin (Botox) injections, which block the signal that activates sweat glands. These treatments are repeated when signs of sweating come back. Other drugs that interfere with sweat glands are available if the preferred treatments don't work, although they may cause more severe side effects. Surgery to remove sweat glands or cut the nerves to glands is a last resort, Pariser says.

As an adult, Wastler no longer has hyperhidrosis in her underarms, but she does have problems with excessive sweating on her palms and feet. She receives Botox injections in her hands, and iontophoresis for her feet.

“I can read the newspaper. I can hold hands with my loved ones. I can hold a tennis racket. You really don’t realize how much you use your hands. In addition to the physical benefits, you also have psychological release like a burden was lifted,” she says.

Reviewed on July 05, 2012

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