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How to Talk to Your Doctor About Excessive Sweating

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What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office

Your doctor will ask you about your sweating -- when it occurs, and what seems to trigger it. You'll also be asked about your medical history, including any medical conditions you have and medicines you are taking.

The doctor will do a medical exam, which may include:

  • Lab tests to check for conditions that can cause hyperhidrosis, such as heart disease, thyroid problems, and diabetes.
  • Tests for hyperhidrosis. The starch-iodine test uses a mixture of iodine and starch, which turns blue in areas where your body is sweating excessively. The paper test uses a special type of paper applied to the affected area to measure the volume of sweat you are producing.

Based on your health history and exam, your doctor will determine whether you have primary hyperhidrosis or secondary hyperhidrosis.

  • Primary hyperhidrosis is the most common cause of excessive sweating. It's not due to any medical condition -- it is the condition. Primary hyperhidrosis tends to start in childhood and run in families, and it usually causes heavy sweating on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and armpits.
  • Secondary hyperhidrosis is caused by a medical condition (such as cancer or an infection) or medication (which can include antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs). Sweating can occur over wider areas of your body.

Knowing which kind of sweating problem you have can help your doctor find the right treatment for it. That treatment may involve antiperspirants, iontophoresis (a technique that uses a low current passed through water to treat heavy sweating of the hands and feet), or Botox injections to block the nerve signals that trigger your sweat glands.

If sweating is due to another condition, then treating the primary condition may help with symptoms. Discuss all of your options with your doctor. Make sure you fully understand them, and their possible side effects, before you begin hyperhidrosis treatment.

Also ask your doctor whether your health insurance will cover the cost of treatment. Some insurance companies and policies will pay for all or part of hyperhidrosis treatments, and it's important to know how much of your treatment you will need to cover yourself.

Keep in close touch with your doctor while you are undergoing treatment for excessive sweating. If your hyperhidrosis isn't responding to antiperspirants, iontophoresis, or Botox, the next step may be to try oral medication or surgery.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 28, 2013
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