Hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweat production. This medical condition is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 5 people, although less than 40% of sufferers seek treatment. There is something you can do about it! In some cases, it is caused by a particular disease or disorder, but in many cases, it’s just the way people are: a biological oops. In a 2008 survey conducted by the International Hyperhidrosis Society, more men (39% of men compared to 28% of women) felt they have too much underarm sweat, but more women said they would be embarrassed by underarm sweat than men (68% vs. 51%). This may help explain why more diagnosed hyperhidrosis patients are female (63%).
According to a study reported in the January 2007 issue of the journal Dermatologic Surgery, the average age at which symptoms began to appear was around 14. The armpit is the most common site affected, but it can also affect the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or other areas of the body. This study also asked sufferers what treatments they tried, and at what age they sought medical help (the average age was around 30). The most common choice for treatment was over-the-counter remedies such as commonly available antiperspirants, closely followed by clinical strength or prescription antiperspirants containing aluminum chloride. About 15% of sufferers chose more aggressive treatment options, such as Botox®, Iontophoresis, or surgery.
The good news is that technology has changed since 2007 and we have more nonsurgical treatment options than ever that move beyond topical treatments to offer more permanent solutions. These include Botox®, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of hyperhidrosis. Botox is thought to work by paralyzing the sweat glands. However, treatments are not permanent and typically require injections twice a year. Another nonsurgical treatment option that is FDA-approved for hyperhidrosis is MiraDry®, which uses microwave energy to target and destroy the sweat glands in the treatment area. Yet another treatment uses lasers. Currently, we offer Ultherapy® for hyperhidrosis, which uses ultrasound energy to target and destroy the sweat glands. Although this treatment is still being studied for FDA marketing approval for hyperhidrosis (its current marketing approval is for tightening or lifting skin around the eyebrow, neck, or under the chin in suitable candidates). It can be used to successfully treat hyperhidrosis. Studies show improvement lasting more than a year.
Currently, many dermatologists are exploring other treatment options using ultrasound, light, and other energy forms to achieve permanent sweat reduction. That’s the topic of the video below by Dr. Michael S. Kaminer.
Dermatol Surg 2007;33:S69–S75