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Excessive sweating can be a cause of embarrassment. This condition normally begins with the onset of puberty when one becomes all the more conscious of his or her appearance and wants to present his very best in the public.

Primary and secondary hyperhiderosis

Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which there is excessive secretion of sweat from our body, especially in the armpits, hands, feet, face and the groin region. This condition affects almost 3% of the total population in the world and can be hereditary. Whenever the core temperature of our body rises, we lose heat in the form of sweat. Sweating is a natural phenomenon that occurs due to stimulation of the sweat glands present in our body by the sympathetic nervous system. It may occur naturally to lose heat or in response to stressful situations. There are two types of sweat glands that are found on our skin- the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands. The latter produce a sweat which is fatty in nature. When bacteria present in the atmosphere act on this sweat, they break down the fat produce an offensive odor. Sweating within a reasonable range is normal; it is the excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis that can be very embarrassing.

Hyperhidrosis is of two types- Primary hyperhidrosis and Secondary hyperhidrosis.
  1. Primary hyperhidrosis occurs as a response to excessive stress, spicy food or strenuous work. It may be restricted to either one or include several focal areas of sweating like armpits, face or feet. Depending upon the number of times the person is exposed to causative factors, episodes of primary hyperhidrosis may occur from several times daily to a few episodes every month.
  2. Secondary hyperhidrosis is a condition which arises secondary to other systemic illnesses like diabetes, thyroid gland malfunction or even menopause. It may also occur as a deleterious effect of certain medications. Secondary hyperhidrosis involves the entire body rather being restricted to a few focal areas as is the case in primary hyperhidrosis. Here, sweating episodes may occur even during the sleep.

Excessive sweating- a cause of embarrassment

Excessive sweating can be a cause of embarrassment. This condition normally begins with the onset of puberty when one becomes all the more conscious of his or her appearance and wants to present his very best in the public. Huge patches of sweat in the armpits while making a public appearance can be very embarrassing. Similarly beads of perspiration running down the face while making a public speech can again be very embarrassing. Many people tend to avoid public life to avoid this embarrassment. They will avoid public speaking, taking part in physical activities like sports and dancing in front of other people and even avoid going out with friend or on a date to prevent being in an embarrassing position. Excessive sweating makes a dent on their confidence level. Such people tend to become very self conscious when they are in a public place. This leads to an increased anxiety level which triggers the sympathetic nervous system. This results in a fresh bout of sweating. This is thus a vicious cycle which can be very embarrassing. The social life of the person suffers as a consequence and he tends to become a recluse.

Natural means of preventing excessive sweating

There are several natural means by which you can prevent excessive sweating or the bad odor that accompanies it. One can begin with taking a bath twice daily. Simple modification in our dietary habits is one of the easiest natural means to prevent sweating. Smoking or taking caffeinated products increases our metabolic rate by releasing adrenaline. This, in turn, stimulates the nervous system resulting in sweating. So avoiding coffee or smoking can reduce sweating naturally. Reducing the intake of onions, garlic, spicy food or complex foods that require a lot of effort to be broken down like meat, can also reduce excessive sweating. Drinking plenty of water maintains the body temperature while flushing out the toxins and is one of the best natural means to avoid excessive sweating. Wear loose clothes that allow a lot of space for air circulation. Also prefer light shades when out in the sun. Wearing tight fitting clothes restricts the movement of air resulting in the accumulation of sweat. Loose clothes allow the sweat to dry up and prevent those embarrassing sweat stains.

Medications available against excessive sweating

Amongst the various medications available against excessive sweating, the most commonly used are deodorants and antiperspirants meant for topical application. Most of the easily available, over the counter antiperspirants and deodorants contain about 12% aluminum chloride. This concentration is effective in stopping normal to slightly more than normal sweating. They also contain antiseptics and have a nice smell which masks the offensive odor of sweat. For people who sweat excessively, special formulations with a higher concentration of aluminum chloride are available on dermatologist’s prescription. Other medications available against excessive sweating include strong prescription drugs and certain injections to be taken intermittently. They either reduce the amount of sweating or completely eliminate it. These injections are specifically targeted to the sweat glands present in the armpits while allowing the normal functioning of the sweat glands present elsewhere in the body. They are FDA approved and are completely safe.

One must also be mindful of the fact that there are certain medicines which can increase sweating as their side effect. These medicines include thyroxine, morphine and certain antipsychotic medicines. Overdose of some analgesics can also lead to excessive sweating. Therefore patients of hyperhidrosis must apprise the doctor of their condition before starting the treatment so that the dosage of these medicines can be adjusted accordingly. Thus we see that there are various medications available against excessive sweating. Judicious use of these medications as advised by the physician can bring the problem of hyperhidrosis under control allowing you to lead a normal life without getting embarrassed by the excessive sweating.

Surgical treatment for excessive sweating

Surgical treatment is an option available for people suffering from excessive sweating. People who are too stressed out mentally usually opt for this form of treatment. ETS surgery is a form of surgical treatment for excessive sweating wherein the nerve responsible for stimulating the sweat glands present in the body is clamped. As the glands are no longer stimulated, they do not produce sweat. Another form of surgical intervention involves localized injections of Botox. These injections, when given properly, can reduce sweating by almost 50% with the effect lasting for more than 6 months. Iontophoresis is a technique where a low electric current is passed through a tray of water with your hands or feet dipped in it. It is highly effective in reducing excessive sweating but must be avoided during pregnancy or by people with other health problems. Another surgical treatment for excessive sweating involves local surgery wherein the sweat glands of the troublesome area are removed altogether.

Besides these techniques, one can also opt for other holistic methods of treatment like yoga, homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal medicines.  These methods are often very useful without producing the harmful side effects of the medical or surgical forms of treatments. The patient may also require some form of psychotherapy as his self esteem is often shattered because of the constant embarrassment posed by his condition. A psychotherapist can help the patient in restoring back his self confidence and improving his emotional status so that he loses his inhibitions and does not avoid public life any more.

With the help of simple changes introduced in the diet and by using the various treatment modalities available, one can overcome the problem of excessive sweating and start living a normal and healthy life once again.

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