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Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)

Oral Drugs for Excessive Sweating

Oral anticholinergic drugs such as glycopyrrolate (Robinul) are not commonly used for excessive sweating, because in order to work they often produce side effects like dry mouth and blurred vision.

Botox and Excessive Sweating

Botulinum toxin (Botox), a nerve toxin that can temporarily paralyze muscle, is often in the news as a cosmetic treatment for wrinkles. But it has actually been used in many areas of medicine for some time, such as in the treatment of muscle spasms and certain types of headaches. Its latest medical niche is the treatment of excessive underarm sweating.

Fifty (50) units of Botox are injected into roughly 20 spots in each armpit. This may produce approximately six months of relief from sweating. The injections are uncomfortable, but use of a very small injection needle makes them tolerable.

Now that this treatment has received FDA approval for hyperhidrosis, many health insurers are providing coverage for the injections and the Botox itself, which is quite costly.

Currently, the FDA has not approved Botox for sweating of the palms and soles of the feet, though some physicians are administering it as an off-label use, reportedly with success. Palm injections cause more pain, requiring nerve blocks to numb the hands in order to make the injections comfortable.

Surgery for Excessive Sweating

Thoracic sympathectomy is surgical interruption of the sympathetic nerves responsible for sweating. Sympathectomy is an operation intended to destroy part of the nerve supply to the sweat glands in the skin. The surgeon inserts a special endoscopic instrument into the chest between two ribs just below the armpit. The lung is briefly deflated to better visualize and destroy the nerves. Sympathectomy is both effective and risky. Even with newer endoscopic techniques, the complications can include excessive sweating in other parts of the body and lung and nerve problems. As many of these complications are serious and not reversible, this option is rarely used, and then only as a last resort.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on June 26, 2012

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