Is your Christmas wish to be sweat-free this summer?10/11/2018
Read on to learn how it may be possible for you.
Sweating is the body’s natural way of controlling body temperature and responding to stress. In response to these stimuli, the brain sends chemical signals to the sweat glands in the skin via nerves which makes them produce sweat. Through evaporative cooling, the sweat cools the skin.
What is hyperhidrosis?
Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) affects about 2% of the population and is the cause of anxiety and embarrassment. It can stain clothes and negatively impact business, social and even romantic relationships. It may affect the underarms (called axillary hyperhidrosis) or the palms and soles (called palmoplantar hyperhidrosis) and less often can even affect the scalp and other parts of the body.
Under-arm sweating (axillary hyperhidrosis) tends to start in late adolescence but sweating of the palms and soles starts a bit earlier. Things like holding a pen, shaking someone’s hands or even putting your arm up to ask a question can be impossible for those that have excessive sweating.
So what are the causes of hyperhidrosis?
There are two types of hyperhidrosis
- Primary hyperhidrosis – this causes sweating in localised regions (like the axilla, palms, soles). The exact cause is not known but it may be due to genetic factors (hereditary)
- Secondary hyperhidrosis – this causes excessive sweating all over the body or over a large area of the body and may be due to heat or certain medical conditions. Conditions like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, menopause, pregnancy, infections and some cancers can cause generalised sweating.
It is important to chat to your doctor about your symptoms in order to work out if there is an underlying reason for your sweating.
Depending on the location and severity of the sweating, different treatment will be discussed by your dermatologist. Starch-iodine tests can be done to see what areas you are sweating in.
For localised mild to moderate sweating, clinical strength antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride can be helpful. They work best when applied at night and again in the morning and can be used on places other than your armpits. Roll on antiperspirants are used quite effectively on the palms and soles of the feet too.
Other topical agents
Other topical treatments containing an ingredient called glycopyrrolate can also be helpful but needs to be compounded by a compounding chemist. The formula that is right for you will be tailored to your needs by your dermatologist.
For severe underarm sweating (axillary hyperhidrosis), very effective, affordable injectable (into skin only) treatments are available and can be done in as little as 15 minutes. The Australian PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) will cover a significant proportion of the costs if you qualify and get this treatment done by a registered dermatologist. All dermatologists at Chroma Dermatology Melbourne are registered injectors for hyperhidrosis and Dr Michelle Rodrigues a seasoned injector having performed this treatment since it was first listed on the PBS in 2011.
What is this injectable treatment?
The injectable treatment is a natural, purified protein extracted from bacteria under laboratory conditions. This injectable treatment is a prescription only medication available to those over the age of 12. This injected treatment has been used in Australia for other medical conditions for over 20 years now.
How does the injectable treatment work?
The injections work by preventing the release of a chemical (acetylcholine) from the nerves that signals the sweat glands to activate.
How is the treatment performed?
After the area has been prepared and cleaned, the dermatologist will inject the treatment into the skin with a very small, fine needle. Anaesthetic is not required as the procedure is tolerated very well but some discomfort is felt.
What happens after the treatment?
No discomfort will be felt after the treatment. It’s best not to exercise vigorously in the first 24 hours but otherwise you can resume all your normal activities. Usually, it takes about a week for the injected treatment to start working.
How long does the effect of the injected treatment last?
The amount of ‘sweat free’ time differs from person to person. For most people, the treatment remains effective for about 4months initially but with subsequent injections, this sweat-free time gets longer and longer. There are some people that only need this treatment once or twice per year to keep their sweating at bay.
Are there any side effects from the injectable treatment?
Apart from some discomfort during the treatment, side effects are rare. Pain at the injection site, local skin infections and hot flushes as well as temporary arm weakness are theoretical side effects but are very rare.
This injectable treatment has revolutionised our ability to successfully treat hyperhidrosis in the armpits (axillary hyperhidrosis).
Oral (tablet) treatments
Tablet treatments (oral medications called anticholinergics) that affect nerve signals to sweat glands and iontophoresis (low-intensity electrical current treatment) can also be considered depending on the location and type of sweating. Oral treatment can however cause some side effects like palpitations, constipation and blurred vision while iontophoresis is needed multiple times per week on an on-going basis.
Surgery is really a last resort treatment for those with severe sweating because during this procedure (thoracic sympathectomy or endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS)) the surgeon cuts and destroys the nerves that cause the sweating. One common side effect from this procedure is called compensatory sweating. Compensatory sweating is where other parts of the body like the chest or legs, could start sweating excessively.
So, what can you do to enjoy a sweat-free summer where you can ooze confidence in the clothes you love?
- Avoid heavy clothing and choose breathable fabrics
- Shower every day and apply antiperspirants in the morning and night
- Consider seeing a dermatologist if you think your sweating is severe or if it is embarrassing or annoying you! It could soon be a thing of the past.
If you or someone you know suffers from excessive sweating, contact us to find out how we can help.