Your body's more than 4 million sweat glands are there for a reason: to help regulate your body temperature and keep you cool. So sweating is a good thing.
But if you're one of the 950,000 Canadians who suffer from hyperhidrosis — a disorder that's characterized by sweating more than your body needs in order to maintain its optimal body temperature — then you may think that sweating isn't so great.
More than just a wet spot
Beyond sweating more than your body needs, the symptoms of hyperhidrosis include:
- Frequent sweating that soaks through clothes
- Excessive sweating on your feet, underarms, face or head
- Dripping sweat droplets on your palms or soles
Unlike normal perspiration, there's no obvious reason for the excessive sweating and it occurs more than once a week
When quality of life dries up
Normal sweating occurs when it's hot outside, during physical activity or during periods of stress, nervousness or anxiety. These types of episodes don't have a serious impact on your quality of life. Hyperhidrosis, however, does. Sufferers may:
- Be embarrassed by sweat stains, clammy palms or sweat dripping down their face
- Stain their clothing
- Avoid social or business activities or interactions (especially handshakes)
- May not be able to grip a pen or steering wheel properly
There are two main types of hyperhidrosis, each with their own causes.
- Focal hyperhidrosis — also called primary hyperhidrosis — has no known cause. However, it is believed that over-activity of the central nervous system is to blame. With this type, excessive sweating is limited to certain parts of your body:
- Generalized hyperhidrosis — or secondary hyperhidrosis — generally occurs over your entire body and is caused by an underlying condition such as:
- Endocrine disorders
- Nerve damage
- Side-effects from taking some prescription medication (this is rare, but possible)
If you suffer from excessive sweating, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to help ease the symptoms.
- Bathe daily
- Dry your feet thoroughly — especially between your toes
- Buy shoes and socks made of natural fibres — leather for shoes; cotton, wool or moisture-wicking athletic socks
- Wear clothing made from natural fibres
- Rotate your shoes — especially if they don't dry completely overnight
- Try relaxation techniques — to help ease stress
Ask for help
If you suffer from excessive sweating and think it's something you just have to live with, think again. These days, healthcare professionals can offer treatments that may help you keep hyperhidrosis under control:
- Topical medication
- Botulinum toxin A injections
- Surgery — if other treatments don't work
- Iontophoresis — which involves submerging the area in water and an electric current in an attempt to affect the sweat glands