Do you suffer from this often misunderstood issue?
If you “pit out” within minutes after showering and dressing, wear almost all black or dark colored tops, avoid certain types of fabrics, have large dry cleaning bills, stick paper towels under your arms throughout the day, change shirts frequently, and wear undershirts or disposable underarm sweat shields, you probably suffer from hyperhidrosis, an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition where you have abnormal increased sweating. Other areas that can be affected are hands, feet and the groin area.
The cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown, says Dr. Vivek Iyengar, a dermatologist affiliated with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “For some, social or work situations that cause nervousness or excitement can trigger an episode. Nicotine as well as certain foods and drinks, including caffeine, can increase sweating.”
But, Dr. Iyengar explains, it doesn’t matter if it is 100 degrees or negative 10 degrees; excessive sweating can happen during any weather condition.
He recommends the following options for patients who experience excessive underarm perspiration:
- Incorporate diet changes including:
- Eating more bland foods and cutting back on spicy foods in general. The chemical Capsaicin is found in most spicy foods and will stimulate heat sensitive nerves. Your body will react by sweating to cool down.
- Avoiding caffeinated beverages – such as coffee – as caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, activating your sweat glands.
- Lowering your salt intake, as your body will sweat to get rid of extra sodium.
- Cutting out fatty and processed foods, as these cause your body to work extra hard to digest.
- Eliminating or reducing the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol widens the blood vessels in your skin, which leads to increased body heat.
- Quitting smoking. Not only does it cause a myriad of critical health issues, it can also cause excess sweating. Nicotine triggers your body to release acetylcholine, which stimulates your sweat glands. It raises heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, also triggering excess sweating.
- Wear breathable, natural fabrics, such as cotton, silk and wool, to allow for ventilation. Use dress shields or sweat-absorbing undershirts to reduce visible underarm wetness.
- Use a stronger, clinical strength over-the-counter antiperspirant with a higher level of aluminum. Read the instructions, as these antiperspirants are usually applied at night to give the active ingredient aluminum chloride time to create a block in the sweat glands.
- If clinical strength does not work, you can ask your doctor about prescription antiperspirants – an even higher-strength, aluminum salt-based antiperspirant.
- Oral Anticholinergic agents: Your physician can prescribe drugs that reduce the function of the neurotransmitters that cause you to sweat.
- Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) treatments: Injections of this anti-wrinkle drug can turn off underarm sweat glands for several months. Botox is more than 90 percent effective as a hyperhidrosis medication, but treatments must be repeated every few months.
- MiraDry® system: This device uses electromagnetic energy to hopefully permanently eliminate underarm sweat glands. It is usually a two-part treatment, and can be cost-prohibitive at approximately $1,500 per session. MiraDry does not require a prescription.
- Surgical sympathectomy: A thoracic surgeon can perform a surgical procedure to cut or clamp the sympathetic nerve, which can give long-lasting relief from severe hyperhidrosis. This permanent procedure is used as a last resort.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”