Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)

Excessive sweating, also called hyperhidrosis, can affect the entire body, but usually occurs in the palms, soles, armpits and/or groin area. Excessive sweating is normal when associated with warm weather, physical activity, anxiety or fever. However, if the condition is chronic, you may have hyperhidrosis.

Cause

Typically, hyperhidrosis is a benign problem with no clear cause.

Symptoms

Areas that produce excessive sweat usually appear pink or white, but, in severe cases, may appear cracked, scaly, and soft (especially on the feet). Other symptoms may include a bad odor caused by bacteria and yeast in wet skin.


Hyperhidrosis can cause significant distress in social or professional situations. 


Contact a health provider immediately if excessive sweating is accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • A rapid pounding heartbeat

Diagnosing Excessive Sweating

In addition to a physical exam, there are several tests that can pinpoint the areas of sweating and evaluate the severity of the condition.

  • Iodine-starch test
  • Thermoregulatory sweat test
  • Skin conductance

Blood or urine tests also may be performed to determine is excessive sweating is caused by another condition, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Treatments

Specific treatment varies depending on: 

  • Age, overall health and medical history
  • Severity of the condition
  • Cause of the condition
  • Tolerance of specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Personal preference

Treatment may involve topical, oral, surgical or nonsurgical treatments:

  • Prescription-strength antiperspirants applied nightly
  • Methenamine solution applied to the area
  • Oral anticholinergic medication
  • Thoracoscopic sympathectomy: a surgical interruption of the sympathetic nerve pathways that lead to the sweat glands
  • Botulinum toxin: an injection that helps inhibit the release of acetylcholine (a substance that is active in the transmission of nerve impulses)
  • Tap water iontophoresis (weak electrical current is applied to the area)
  • Psychological counseling and/or medication to reduce anxiety