Humans sweat for a reason, sweating is a physiological process the body uses to cool itself down and maintain its internal temperature, which is called thermoregulation. However, some people have conditions that cause them to sweat too much or not enough due to various physiological issues. It is called hyperhidrosis when a person sweats in excess of what is needed by the body to maintain thermoregulation. This just means that a person is sweating more than is useful for the body. Hyperhidrosis itself is not dangerous, but the underlying issues that cause it can be. There are two main types of hyperhidrosis, primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. Primary focal hyperhidrosis develops when a person is younger and is not dangerous. However, it does cause both physiological and psychological problems for people that can greatly impact their quality of life. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis comes on suddenly in adulthood and it can be an indication that someone is unwell.
Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis can indicate a serious underlying health issue and this type of hyperhidrosis needs to be managed by a doctor. Most often, secondary hyperhidrosis is caused by a medication side effect. In this case a patient can choose to stop the medication or use an oral medication to treat hyperhidrosis symptoms if going off of their medicine is not an option. Sometimes however, there is a physiological condition or disease that is causing hyperhidrosis, and it is very important to have it checked out by a doctor. Some conditions that cause secondary hyperhidrosis, like pregnancy, are not medically dire, but some are. Cancers, like lymphoma, and infections, like tuberculosis, can cause excessive sweating so someone who suddenly develops secondary hyperhidrosis needs to seek medical attention. In most instances excessive sweating is caused by a medication or a benign medical condition, but it is important to have it checked out.
Primary focal hyperhidrosis is not physically dangerous, but it can cause some physical issues if it is not well managed. Excessive sweating can make it difficult to maintain cleanliness, make it more likely for someone to develop a skin infection, and can destroy a person’s clothing. Hyperhidrosis has a larger impact on a person’s quality of life, and this is how it does the most damage. People with hyperhidrosis often struggle with anxiety due to the effect it has on their lives. It can be an extremely embarrassing condition and it can cause people to lose out on experiences they would have otherwise enjoyed. Many people with hyperhidrosis find that it impacts several aspects of their daily lives including intimate relationships, leisure activities, personal hygiene, work, and self-esteem. The effect hyperhidrosis has on a person’s quality of life should not be underestimated. It is just as important to seek treatment for the psychological aspects of the disease as the physical. Luckily, there are several effective treatment options that can help people with hyperhidrosis improve their quality of life. Specifically, botox treatment for axillary hyperhidrosis and a surgical procedure for primary focal hyperhidrosis, called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, have shown that they significantly improve patients quality of life. This is especially true when someone suffers from severe hyperhidrosis. There are many other treatments for sweaty hands and feet, and axillary hyperhidrosis, that can also improve patient’s symptoms and their quality of life.
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.