The Causes Of and Treatments For Sweaty Hands

Sweaty hands aren’t uncommon – most people get them at some point or another. But for the segment of the population who suffer from hyperhidrosis, sweaty hands are more than just an occasional nuisance.

How Hyperhidrosis Works

The reason why humans sweat is to cool down the body and maintain proper thermoregulation, but for those with hyperhidrosis, sweating occurs much more frequently than is necessary for thermoregulation.

With hyperhidrosis, sweat glands are overactive, which leads to excessive sweating when there is no other reason to be sweating that much. It doesn’t matter if the weather is cool or hot, people with hyperhidrosis will have excessive sweating even if there are no external reasons for it.

One of the most common spots for hyperhidrosis is the hands. You may find your hands are constantly sweaty and have no idea of the cause of the excessive sweating. The skin on your hands may be white from the constant moisture. They may even start peeling from being wet so much.

And for those with primary hyperhidrosis, the most common kind that affects up to 90 percent of the people with hyperhidrosis, if you have sweaty hands, you’ll usually have sweaty feet as well. They seem to be a package deal for many people. Excessive sweat can also occur on the groin, armpits and face. It is called craniofacial hyperhidrosis when it affects the face. This article discusses treatments for sweat hands, but there are also specific treatments for sweaty feet as well as for other parts of the body. [1]

Things that Can Cause Sweaty Hands

If you’re one of the unlucky 2-3% of the US population who suffers from excessively sweaty palms - or palmar hyperhidrosis, as it’s also known - you’ll know just how debilitating and embarrassing this condition can be. There are several surprising factors that can make this condition worse.

Your Genes

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those constantly sweaty palms could be the result of some bad luck with your genes. One famous study carried out at the University of California in 2002 demonstrated that many debilitating cases of palmar hyperhidrosis are indeed the result of ‘faulty’ genes passed down from generation to generation

This highlights the fact that your symptoms aren’t necessarily the result of stress or emotional issues, although hyperhidrosis and anxiety are often related, and these things can certainly impact upon their severity. However, don’t think that healing is an impossibility for you- there are still many treatments that can make a difference and improve the quality of your life.

You’re Battling Stress

Most of us have experienced sweaty palms when something stressful happens, such as an examination, a marriage proposal or speaking in public.

This is because the stress has triggered our fight-or-flight response, releasing the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. These hormones help us cope with the stress, but also raise our body temperature. Naturally, our bodies work to reduce this temperature in the way they know best- by activating your sweat glands. If you’re under chronic stress, your body is constantly on high alert and you are likely to continue to sweat around the clock and experience what is known as stress sweat.

Social Phobia

When it comes to excessive sweating and social phobia, it’s often hard to tell which came first. But there’s no doubt that the two feed a vicious cycle. Hyperhidrosis and anxiety often go hand in hand.

The scenario is a familiar one - you feel terribly ashamed about your sweaty hands and feel that other people will look at you in disgust, judge you negatively and you will never ever find a partner. So, when the bank manager goes in for the formal handshake, you feel yourself die inside a little. Or when your gorgeous date reaches for your hand affectionately, that familiar dread rises up. Scenarios like these trigger your fight-or-flight response, your stress hormones kick in, and your palms get sweaty. This will only reinforce your social phobia and make you more likely to avoid this kind of scenario in the future.

Low Blood Sugar

If you are constantly craving sugary snacks and often skip meals you may be suffering from low blood sugar. This may also be the case if you are suffering from diabetes.

Your blood sugar issues are probably to blame for your palmar hyperhidrosis. You see, your body needs a constant supply of energy in order to work efficiently. But when you eat these kinds of sugary foods or go for a long time without eating, your blood sugar levels will fluctuate wildly. In order to cope, it releases stress hormones like epinephrine which stimulate the release of sugar from your body stores but also trigger symptoms of stress like sweaty palms and shaking.

Too Much Alcohol

Most of us enjoy a glass or two of something alcoholic to help us wind down at the end of a long hard day. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

But alcohol can be a big problem if you’re vulnerable to sweaty palms. Alcohol and excessive sweating are highly related, it can worsen, or even trigger symptoms to begin. This is because alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate which has a warming effect on your skin. This causes your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, releasing plenty of sweat to help bring your body temperature back down.

These symptoms get worse the more alcohol you consume, and can hit chronic levels for those who become addicted.

Spicy Foods and Coffee

While spicy foods and coffee are unlikely to cause severe sweaty palms, they can have a powerful effect on the body’s thermoregulation. These substances can worsen symptoms you might already be suffering, especially if you are sensitive to spice or caffeine. Caffeine can be a trigger for excessive sweating, so it is a good idea to use it in moderation.

Both spice and caffeine can activate neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, which cause your sweat glands to overreact and produce excessive amounts of sweat. They can also trigger the release of stress hormones which can further worsen the problem.

Thyroid Issues

If you suffer from thyroid disease, it’s highly likely that you also suffer from excessive sweating. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Dermatology highlighted this often-ignored link between the two, offering answers for sufferers.

Hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disease which causes your immune cells to attack your healthy cells, which then increases your body temperature. This is similar to the way your body reacts when you are fighting off the flu. In an attempt to bring your temperature down, your parasympathetic nervous system will kick-in, releasing yet more sweat.

Menopause or Perimenopause

Hot flashes and night sweats are a well-known part of the menopause and can cause excessive sweating on the palms, hands, feet, and rest of the body. This is due to fluctuating levels of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone, which interfere with the body’s temperature regulation process. These hormones trigger those hot and sweaty moments. If you’re especially hormone-sensitive, this process can lead to severe symptoms that can last many years if not addressed.

Stop believing that your sweaty palms are all your fault or a sign of weakness. They’re not. There are many potential causes of sweaty hands, including lifestyle factors, genetic factors, and health conditions.

Is Hyperhidrosis Dangerous?

Usually, when people find out they have a medical condition they aren’t familiar with, the first thing they want to know is how it will affect them – if it will be dangerous to them in any way or shorten their lifespan.

Those who have hyperhidrosis will be relieved to know that it won’t be a danger to them. They’ll live just as long as their friends and family members who don’t have hyperhidrosis. But while hyperhidrosis won’t impact your longevity, what it can do is affect your quality of life. It’s a life-altering condition for the people who suffer from it.

Let’s look at the many ways sweaty hands and hyperhidrosis can affect people:

  • It can impact your relationships: Many of the relationships in your life can be affected by sweaty hands and other areas of sweat caused by hyperhidrosis. When you meet someone, the first thing you generally do is shake their hand. But when your hands are soaked with sweat, the last thing you want to do is shake someone’s hand. Whether it’s meeting new people, making friends, or even dating, sweaty hands can put a wrench in your plans.
  • Confidence: Having perpetually sweaty hands can chip away at your feelings of confidence and self-esteem. It can make you less willing to try new things and can make you feel shy instead of outgoing like your peers or friends.
  • Jobs: Some people have difficulty with their jobs because of hyperhidrosis. Excessive sweating can be a problem for some occupations, such as surgeons where you have to hold onto instruments during operations. Some people don’t pursue the career of their choice because of their hyperhidrosis. Those who do manual labor might risk the threat of electric shocks while operating certain equipment, for example. It is also an issue for those who work in environments with high humidity, as that can make symptoms worse.
  • Depression: Some people seem to deal with hyperhidrosis better than others. For some, the condition can cause depression because of the impact it has on their life.
  • Recreational activities: Primary hyperhidrosis generally begins during adolescence, which is the time many students begin thinking about which extracurricular activities they are going to participate in during school. Unfortunately, playing sports with hyperhidrosis or participating in other activities like band can be stressful for those with sweaty hands. It can be impossible to grip a basketball or hold onto a drum stick, for instance, with sweaty hands.
  • Financial: The treatments for hyperhidrosis can put a financial burden on a person. If you don’t seek treatment, you can still feel the financial strain. Having excessively sweaty armpits, for instance, may cause you to replace a lot of your shirts.

What Are Some Tips for Dealing with Sweaty Hands?

There are a number of treatments you can pursue to help curb some of the sweat on your hands. But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the alternative methods you can use to manage hyperhidrosis of the hands:

  • Wearing gloves: While this clearly isn’t a permanent solution, it can be a temporary band-aid that will let you pursue some recreational activities with more confidence. Batting gloves can be worn during softball or baseball to let you get a better grip on your bat to help with your hitting. You won’t look out of place because many athletes wear these kinds of gloves. When kayaking, you can wear gloves to help you hold on better to the paddle. As an extra perk, the gloves will help you avoid any blisters you might get from longer paddling sessions. There are many instances where wearing the right clothes can help people who sweat excessively.
  • Finding your happy place: Finding ways to relax can alleviate some of the sweating. It isn’t a cure-all and people with hyperhidrosis sweat more often than when they are just anxious. But for some sufferers, anxiety is a real trigger and causes additional sweating. Whether it’s meditation or yoga, using anxiety reduction methods can lessen excessive sweating and help you avoid some avoid and control anxiety.

Treatments for Sweaty Hands

If you’re looking for something that will help you substantially reduce the sweat on your hands and not just help you hide it, here are some proven treatments you can try. You don’t have to simply put up with sweaty hands for the rest of your life – there are measures you can take to banish this problem, or at least cut down on it.

Antiperspirant

It might seem strange at first, but your armpits aren’t the only location that can benefit from wearing antiperspirant. You can use it on your hands as well. It is also important to understand what antiperspirant does and how it differs from deodorant. Antiperspirant actually blocks sweat glands so that sweat can't reach the surface of the skin, this is unlike deodorant which masks the smell of sweat and contains some antibacterial properties.

The good thing about this treatment is that it is widely available and noninvasive. You can start off by trying over-the-counter antiperspirants, but your best bet might be a prescription antiperspirant. It can be confusing for people to figure out how to choose the right over-the-counter antiperspirant, but understanding the ingredients in antiperspirants can help. Before you upgrade to the next level of antiperspirant, you’ll want to make sure you’re applying the over-the-counter stuff correctly to give it the best chance of being successful. Here is how you should be applying it:

  • Put it on at night: This is a good strategy to follow because most people with primary hyperhidrosis find they don’t sweat while they’re sleeping. And to give antiperspirant time to set, it should be applied while hands are as dry as possible.
  • Wash your hands first: By washing and drying your hands right before applying your antiperspirant, you’ll be getting your hands dried off so the antiperspirant will adhere to your skin better.

If you’ve tried antiperspirant for a while with limited or no success and you want to try another treatment, you’re in luck. There is more you can be doing. [2]

Iontophoresis Machine

Iontophoresis as a treatment for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis can be very effective. This low-intensity treatment sends low-voltage electrical currents into a pan of water in which your hands or feet are sitting.

That electric current can reduce how active your sweat glands are. But it won’t work like magic in the first treatment. You might have to do as many as 10 sessions before you notice a real improvement. But after that, you can reduce the frequency of the treatments and just set up a maintenance schedule.

This procedure can be performed in a doctor’s office or at home after your doctor writes you a prescription for the equipment. Iontophoresis really does work, and it you are struggling and unable to get results, there are ways to make iontophoresis more effective.

Although it may take a few sessions to see results, it does work. Some studies have shown it reduces sweating by as much as 81 percent. Although it doesn’t offer total sweat control, that 81 percent can be a life-changing amount for someone suffering from hyperhidrosis. [1]

Botox Injections

Botox treatment for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis can be extremely helpful. The same compound that immobilizes people’s foreheads and is frequently used as a way to look younger can help with your sweaty hands as well. Botox injections can cut back on how much sweat your palms produce for six months.

The drawback to this treatment is that it can be uncomfortable or even painful, depending on your pain tolerance level.

You shouldn’t sign up with just any medical professional who offers Botox injections though. You should look for one who has received training to help with hyperhidrosis in particular. To find a suitable professional, you might want to use the Physician Finder function on the International Hyperhidrosis Society’s website. [3]

Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy Surgery

Some people might have the most success with managing their sweaty hands by using a combination of these treatments. But if all these treatment options still aren’t enough, surgical treatment for primary focal hyperhidrosis may be necessary. This type of surgery is called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy.

This surgery should only be performed as a last resort though because it does carry side effects that may be worse than dealing with sweaty hands. [1]

Keep A Positive Outlook

Although having sweaty hands isn’t easy, it may help to remember that things could be much worse. This condition won’t affect your lifespan, and there are better treatments on the horizon as future treatments and research for hyperhidrosis are being developed. For example, a company called Dermira recently released a new product called Qbrexza, a medicated wipe that can reduce sweat production. There are also ways to manage your condition systemically like taking oral medications for hyperhidrosis.

As you deal with this problem, keep in mind that research is continuing into the causes of hyperhidrosis as well as creating new, safe, and effective treatments for it. One day in the near future, you might be able to finally not give your hands a second thought as you move through your day-to-day life.

Until then, do what you can to limit the impact hyperhidrosis has on your life.

Sources
  1. Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Amsterdam: Elsevier Pub. Co., 2014. Retrieved
  2. Nordqvist, C. (2017, December 21). Hyperhidrosis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Retrieved May 14, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182130.php
  3. Kamudoni, P., Mueller, B., Halford, J., Schouveller, A., Stacey, B., & Salek, M. (2017, June 8). The impact of hyperhidrosis on patients' daily life and quality of life: A qualitative investigation. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://hqlo.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12955-017-0693-x
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