By Kira Mayo
You’re giving a speech and you notice your armpits feel warm and moist. You’re on a first date and your hands are drenched. You frequently have to bring two t-shirts to the gym. Sweating can be embarrassing, especially when it happens at times when you want to convey an image of cool confidence. Those who sweat excessively are often anxious about their condition, and it may lead to social withdrawal. But fear not, loyal sweaters. Excessive sweating isn’t always a cause for alarm, and there are things you can do to weaken its mal effects.
Hyperhidrosis, the fancy term for excessive sweating, can affect any body part that has sweat glands. Technically, hyperhidrosis is defined as 20 milligrams of sweat per palm per minute. If you don’t have time to measure your sweat (who doesn’t?!), know this—any amount of sweating that causes you to feel embarrassed is considered “excessive.”
Hyperhidrosis can be focal or generalized. Focal sweating frequently occurs on the palms, soles, underarms, and forehead, and is usually the result of stress. Generalized sweating involves most of the body. Although most cases are due to unknown causes, endocrine disorders, certain medications, cancers and infections are the common culprits.
If you’re experiencing any type of excessive sweating, visit your doctor. Hyperhidrosis is diagnosed by history and examination, and your doctor might include other targeted tests.
The key to preventing sweaty situations is to figure out why you sweat. If it’s related to stress, you can retrain your brain by gradually exposing yourself to that stressor. Eventually, your body won’t respond as if you’re in danger. You can also try to avoid stimulants, such as caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate or certain over the counter medications.
If your prevention techniques aren’t cutting it, try controlling hyperhidrosis with over the counter antiperspirants. Look for ones with aluminum salts, which have been shown to block the ducts leading from the sweat glands to the surface of the skin. And if you’re sweating in places other than your armpits, applying aluminum chloride at night may help. You can find this in both prescription and nonprescription strength. Wash and thoroughly dry the sweaty area, then apply the solution. Remove the solution in the morning. This regimen usually leads to positive results in a week. Then an application once or twice a week is sufficient to maintain relief.
If these noninvasive treatments still don’t work, your doctor can try some invasive ones. Tap water iontophoresis, a process in which a weak electrical current is applied to the sweaty area, uses electricity to “turn off” the sweat glands. Certain medicines can be used, and injections of botox can temporarily diminish sweating. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each treatment.
Odor, which is caused by sweat mixing with bacteria and yeast on the surface of the skin, is often an embarrassing side effect of hyperhydrosis. Try cleaning the problem area twice a day with soap and water. To reduce the amount of bacteria, you may need to use antibacterial creams containing antibiotics. And don’t overlook the basics: shave whenever possible and wash your clothes often!
The bottom line is, excessive sweating is an embarrassing problem, but you don’t have to become socially uneasy and keep avoiding embarrassing situations. There are many treatments available, regardless of the root cause of your condition. Seek the advice of your doctor to rule out any underlying medical condition that could be causing your excessive sweating, and be sure to discuss the various treatment options.
Originally written for CavalierDaily.com