Treatments for overactive sweat glands run the gamut from topical medications to major surgery. It all depends on how debilitating the condition is.
For relatively mild cases of hyperhidrosis, topical (applied directly to the skin), high-potency antiperspirants can be helpful. Prescription-strength antiperspirants, often aluminum chloride hexahydrate in at least 10 percent concentration, clog the sweat glands so fluid can't reach the skin's surface. These are typically used overnight, anywhere from a couple of times a week to a couple of times a month.
Other topical options include diphemanil methylsulfate, an anticholinergic drug,
which acts on the sympathetic nervous system to block the signals that trigger sweating; and glycopyrrolate, which reduces all sorts of bodily secretions, not only sweat but also stomach acid. These have more serious potential side effects than aluminum chloride.
Oral (Systemic) Medications
Oral options for treating overactive sweat glands include propantheline (Pro-banthine) and oxybutynin (Ditropan), which are anticholinergic drugs (they act on the sympathetic nervous system); beta blockers, which reduce the anxiety that can trigger a sweating episode; and calcium channel blockers, which hinder the sweat glands' mechanism for receiving trigger signals.
A procedure called iontophoresis works directly on the sweat gland, using electrical impulses to kick it into the "off" position, so to speak. The affected areas, typically the hands or feet, are submerged in water or an electrolyte solution, and a current is passed through the liquid. The treatment takes about 15 minutes, and most patients need at least six treatments to see results.
An increasingly popular hyperhidrosis treatment, Botox (botulinum toxin A) injections, commonly known for their temporary wrinkle-eliminating capabilities, can also temporarily eliminate sweat. Botox blocks the nerve impulses that tell the sweat glands to start secreting, and the effect can last for two to three months.
For the most severe cases, surgery is an option. Procedures include liposuction or curettage (sucking or scraping out, respectively) to remove the sweat glands in the affected area. Another, more serious procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, or ETS, physically disables the nerve signal that triggers sweat glands by cutting or burning certain tissues in the spinal column. ETS is used primarily for focal hyperhidrosis of the palms and face.
Because surgery carries serious potential side effects, it is considered a last-resort treatment. The first step is to see a doctor who is knowledgeable about hyperhidrosis, and go from there. Treatment options will follow diagnosis and an assessment of the severity of the condition. Fixing a "sweating problem" may be as simple as applying a cream overnight, or it may require more drastic measures.
Either way, the point is, it's fixable.
For more information on overactive sweat glands and related topics, look over the links below.
- About Hyperhidrosis. International Hyperhidrosis Society. (Sept. 24, 2010)http://www.ihhs.net/English/PFF_Hyperhidrosis_Definition.asp
- Hyperhydrosis. DermNet NZ. (Sept. 24, 2010)http://dermnetnz.org/hair-nails-sweat/hyperhidrosis.html
- Hyperhidrosis. MedLine Plus. (Sept. 24, 2010)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007259.ht
- Primary Hyperhidrosis. Mayo Clinic. (Sept. 24, 2010)http://www.mayoclinic.org/medicalprofs/primary-hyperhidrosis.html