Treating Chromhidrosis, from Red Peppers to Toxins
When doctors diagnose patients with chromhidrosis, the news will come with the assurance that the condition is benign; it's painless and it doesn't lead to any other maladies. If the patient asks how to treat it, however, he or she should forgive the physician for shrugging his or her shoulders. The first case of chromhidrosis was documented in 1709, and there haven't been many since. The mystery continues; in 2008, the first case of a patient with orange sweat was documented [source: Wyrick, et al]. Because of the rarity of chromhidrosis, the etiology (underlying causes) of the condition are unknown.
Treatment for eccrine chromhidrosis is relatively easy. Once a physician has identified the foreign agent responsible for the pigment, simply discontinuing exposure to it should cause the condition to disappear over time.
This isn't the case with apocrine chromhidrosis, though. Since medicine hasn't been able to conclude why lipofuscins might build up in the glands, it can't stem their concentration. This hasn't stopped physicians from trying some treatments, at times with mixed success. The best science has come up with is slowing the excretion of sweat.
One treatment that's shown some positive results is capsaicin, a synthesized version of a derivative of the red pepper plant. It's a topical cream most often used for pain relief in arthritis. By slowing the uptake of substance P, a neurotransmitter that's important in the sweat production in apocrine glands, some use of capsaicin has been effective in slowing chromhidrosis.
Other dermatologists and physicians have turned to botulinum, the neurotoxin used in the drugs Botox and Myobloc. The toxin also affects the neurotransmitters that cause sweat to be produced by eccrine and apocrine glands. Again, like capsaicin, there's been mixed results from the use of botulinum.
Ultimately, going after the glands themselves appears to be a chromhidrosis sufferer's best bet. One method is manually or chemically expressing the sweat glands that are producing colored sweat. In other words, the glands are forced to sweat, clearing out the offending lipofuscins and giving the patient relief. This relief isn't long-lasting, however -- the sweat usually comes back in a couple of days. The only proven treatment at effectively stopping chromhidrosis is the physical removal of the pigmented glands.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Baker, Donald J., M.D. and Heymann, Warren R., M.D. "Eccrine and apocrine glands." American Academy of Dermatology.http://www.aad.org/education/students/glands.htm
- Branakin, Benjamin, et al. "Bilateral facial apocrine chromhidrosis." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. March-April 2004.http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PDG/is_2_3/ai_115505671/
- Briggs, Tracey Wong. "Sweat is nature's way of handling heat." USA Today. May 17, 2005.http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/basics/wsweat.htm
- Griffith, Joan R., M.D., M.H.A. "Isolated areolar apocrine chromhidrosis." Pediatrics. January 3, 2005.http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/115/2/e239
- HyperhidrosisWeb. "How sweat glands work." Accessed September 16, 2009.http://www.hyperhidrosisweb.com/sweat-glands-work.html
- Kim, June, M.D. "Chromhidrosis." eMedicine. December 9, 2008.http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1072254-overview
- Lauchli, S., M.D. and Burg, G., M.D. "Treatment of hyperhidrosis with botulinum toxin A." Skin Therapy Letter. 2003.http://www.skintherapyletter.com/2003/8.7/1.html
- Musel, Andrea. "Chromhidrosis and pseudochromhidrosis." DermatologyReview.com Journal. October 2005.http://dermatologyreview.org/journal/chromo.pdf
- The Mayo Clinic. "Capsaicin (topical route)." June 1, 2009.http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600303
- Wyrick, K., et al. "Atypical chromhidrosis: a case report of orange sweat." Cutis. February 2008.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18441771