Dry Electric Current Stops Sweaty Palms

But Hyperhidrosis Returns When Current Stops

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on February 22, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 23, 2011 -- Electricity alone may be enough to zap sweaty palms and temporarily relieve excessive sweating caused by hyperhidrosis.

A new study shows that applying a small electric current to the wrists of people with the disorder kept their hands dry during treatment.

Researchers say tap water iontophoresis, which involves placing hands in a container of tap water charged with an electric current, has been a common treatment for hyperhidrosis for many years. But the results of this study suggest that the tap water may be unnecessary and a dry electric current alone may be an effective treatment for sweaty palms.

“These results imply that tap water in traditional iontophoresis may play no other part than acting as conductor for current,” researcher Kave Shams, MBChB, of Monklands Hospital in Airdrie, Scotland, and colleagues write in the Archives of Dermatology. “This suggests that far less bulky iontophoresis machines requiring less space and resources could also be effective, although further studies are required to verify this proposition.”

Zapping Sweat

The study evaluated the effects of applying a low-level electric current via battery-operated pads to the wrists of six people with sweaty palms (palmar hyperhidrosis). Researchers applied a special solution to make sweaty areas appear dark blue and then photographed the participants’ hands before, during, and after the two-minute electrical treatment.

The results showed that the dry electric current led to a substantial reduction in sweating during treatment, and the sweating returned within seconds or minutes after the electric current stopped.

The participants also subjectively rated their sweaty palms during treatment on a scale of 1 to 100 (dry to wet) and reported a reduction from an average of 66.2 before treatment to 19.2 during treatment.

The study results may help researchers better understand the mechanisms behind the disorder and develop more effective treatments.