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Hyperhidrosis means, literally, ‘excessive sweating’. It can be a highly distressing condition for its sufferers, sometimes affecting the whole body, and sometimes just part of it. Around 1% of the population are thought to suffer from it. For those people, it can cause significant problems in their work life and relationships. It can lead to isolation and depression in some cases, as it can make people feel they cannot live a normal life.

What causes it

Hyperhidrosis is caused by the body’s temperature regulation system not working properly. Sweating is our bodies’ way of keeping cool and making sure we don’t overheat. In people with hyperhidrosis, the temperature regulation goes into overdrive, causing far more sweating than is necessary to keep the body cool.

What are the consequences

Having hyperhidrosis can affect a person’s interactions with the world in many different ways. It can make it very difficult to form and maintain relationships or even shake someone’s hand. Many people with hyperhidrosis feel very embarrassed about physical contact with others and as a result avoid it. As well as causing the skin to become wet and clammy, excessive sweat can have an unpleasant smell, leading to more embarrassment. It can also cause problems with handling objects. For example, someone with hyperhidrosis might find using a keyboard difficult, or picking up certain objects.

Can it be treated

Hyperhidrosis is difficult to treat. Since sufferers tend to develop the condition in childhood or adolescence, and it is lifelong, this can add to the distress of having the condition. However, in recent years there have been some advances in treatment which offer hope. There is no single treatment which will help all sufferers, but there are a number of different options which can be tried and, in many cases, lead to a significant improvement. New types of antiperspirants, containing aluminium chloride, have come on the market and they can often help considerably when compared to standard anti-personnel. Iontophoresis treatment, which involes using electric currents on affected areas on a regular basis is often highly effective.

Botox injections can help some people, as can certain medications including beta blockers and anti-hypertensives. If all these treatments fail, then surgery may help.

Hyperhidrosis is clearly a difficult condition for its sufferers, and can cause major problems. However, with modern treatments most people can be helped on the NHS. If you have hyperhidrosis, don’t sit and suffer: speak to your doctor

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