It may be a natural phenomenon, but sweating can be embarrassing. You may not think twice about “pitting out” after running 5K, but if you’re noticing the same sweat marks at your desk in the office, you may be experiencing hyperhidrosis
About 3% of the population have hyperhidrosis, a condition defined by excessive sweating: “hyper” means too much, and “hidrosis” simply refers to sweating.
Two general types
Hyperhidrosis could be something you are born with, meaning it is congenital, or it could come later in life– which is called acquired. While the condition can vary considerably, there are two general types most commonly seen in our clinic.
- Focal hyperhidrosis. This is the most commonly seen type of hyperhidrosis, and while “focal” could mean excessive sweating in any concentrated area, it usually refers to excessive sweating of the hands, feet, and/or armpits.
- Generalized hyperhidrosis. Just like it sounds, this type of hyperhidrosis affects the entire body. It is less common than focal hyperhidrosis
What causes this condition?
There a different factors at play when it comes to the causes of hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis can be idiopathic— meaning there is no apparent cause. Or it can be a secondary effect of an underlying medical condition. Some (but certainly not all!) health conditions associated with hyperhidrosis are:
- Menopause (thankfully, this is temporary!)
- Rarely, mercury poisoning
If your hyperhidrosis is brought on by a medical condition, it is far more likely that it will be the generalized type– meaning it affects the whole body.
Another common cause of excessive sweatiness is also nerves. Medically speaking, this is not technically hyperhidrosis– which is considered a more permanent situation– but it is certainly inconvenient!
The impacts of hyperhidrosis
The effects of hyperhidrosis run the gamut: from a simple annoyance, to devastatiion. Severe hyperhidrosis can cause social anxiety, lowered self esteem, or negatively impact personal relationships– persons affected may even make their career and long-term life choices around the condition. Hyperhidrosis can have major impacts.
Fortunately, in addition to treatments there are also groups out there to provide support for people experiencing hyperhidrosis. One, International Hyperhidrosis Society, offers social support, research, and articles on the subject.
But there are options for those with hyperhidrosis. For some, treating underlying medical conditions can make the biggest impact. For others, there are more and more treatments available to tackle the problem, including iontophoresis and Botox.