Ever had the feeling that you are sweating too much, more than what is considered normal? It may be due to a condition called hyperhidrosis.
Sweating is a natural mechanism to regulate our body temperature. A hot environment, stress, exercise etc. may activate the nerves in the sweat glands, causing sweat production. The sweat will release extra heat from the body by evaporation, cooling it to the required temperature.
In hyperhidrosis, the glands go into overdrive. As a result, excessive sweat is produced. Such overactivity may be limited to a small area or spread to the whole body. The areas which sweat more in hyperhidrosis include the armpits, feet, palms, face, lower back and genitals.
The International Hyperhidrosis Society estimates that approximately 5 per cent of the global population suffers from this condition. This amounts to about 365 million people.
Not everyone indeed sweats similarly. So how do we know whether it is abnormal or not?
Dr Anna Glaser, president of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, proposed an example. She suggested thinking of a person in a normal temperature environment. The person is relaxed, has no fever and just enjoying time with his/her family. If that person sweats profusely even in this situation, then there may be something wrong.
Doctors talk about two different types of hyperhidrosis. One is genetic and may run in the family. This is called primary hyperhidrosis. The other one is secondary hyperhidrosis caused by some other disease, e.g., diabetes, gout, thyroid disorders, menopause, neurological conditions, some medications, spinal cord injury, etc.
Patients with hyperhidrosis can present with wet palms and feet, and frequent and excessive sweating that soaks through clothing. This may lead to fungal or bacterial infections.
Hyperhidrosis is not a life-threatening disease, but it can cause social embarrassment, discomfort and anxiety. The patient may exclude himself/herself from social contacts, which can cause depression. This may also hurt the patient’s choice of employment.
It is advisable to consult a physician if someone thinks he/she has hyperhidrosis. The doctor will make the diagnosis and suggest appropriate treatment. In addition, some lifestyle modifications can also help deal with the symptoms.
Using antiperspirants (not deodorants) may be useful. There are many antiperspirants available on the market. Certain types of clothing, such as nylon must be avoided, and loose-fitting clothes should be worn.
Also, if possible, it is better to use leather shoes rather than synthetic ones. For socks, thick, soft ones made of natural fibres are recommended. Adopting a diet rich in a variety of vegetables helps too.
Physicians may prescribe medication to control sweating. They may also suggest behavioural techniques to manage anxiety and stress.
Dr Imtiaz Ahmed completed his MBBS from Dhaka Medical College.