Excessive Sweating: Embarrassing, Treatable
Nearly 8 Million Americans Affected, but Help Is Available
WebMD News Archive
The 'Home-Run' Treatment
Botox, is derived from the bacterium Clostridium
botulinum. It blocks nerves that trigger the sweat glands. Despite
the recent FDA approval, Botox injections have been used by dermatologists for
about 10 years -- not only to treat underarm hyperhidrosis, but also that of
the palms, soles, and face.
Other available treatments include:
Prescription antiperspirants, the typical
first-line treatment. "They work but can cause skin irritation, redness,
and stinging," says Glaser.
Medications such as antidepressants,
tranquilizers, and a type of high blood pressure medication known as calcium
channel blockers. These drugs, which have a "drying" effect, are
primarily used to control sweating caused by stressful situations.
Surgery to either remove the sweat
glands or sever nerves leading to them. But in the procedure to remove underarm
sweat glands, range of motion problems of the arm are a common side effect,
"But with Botox, you hit a home run every time," says
Glaser, vice chairwoman of the department of dermatology at Saint Louis
University School of Medicine.
Waldorf agrees and tells WebMD that Botox injections are even
used "cosmetically" in people who don't have hyperhidrosis but want to
ensure they don't sweat during special occasions.
"Let's say you're making an important presentation or it's
your wedding and you are concerned about sweating too much. You get an
injection," she says. "Even celebrities are getting Botox injection in
the weeks before the Academy Awards because they know they'll be on stage in
Are You at Risk?
The exact cause of hyperhidrosis is not completely understood.
"We've determined that these patients have sweat glands that are normal in
size, number, and function," Glaser tells WebMD. "What seems to be
driving this is that signals from the brain cause these people to sweat
excessively, not because of heat or from exercise, when it's not necessary to
control that much to maintain normal body temperature."
The condition affects men and women equally and has no
geographic influence -- those in colder climates are as prone as those in
hotter areas. It does seem to run in families, with about half of patients
reporting a similarly afflicted relative, says Glaser. It typically first
appears following puberty and rarely affects infants.