What is Hyperhidrosis?

what is hyperhidrosis

Sweating is a normal body response to hot or cold weather, physical activity and stress. But for about 3% of people, sweating can be excessive.

Excessive sweating can be embarrassing, distressing or affect your quality of life. It can also cause skin problems like soft, white, peeling skin and frequent skin infections in the parts of your body that sweat heavily.


Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, is a common condition that affects between 3 and 3% of Americans. It can have a serious impact on your quality of life. It can cause social isolation and anxiety, and it can interfere with daily activities.

The nervous system triggers the sweat glands to cool you when your body temperature gets too hot or you’re nervous. But with hyperhidrosis, the nerves tell your sweat glands to work overtime for no reason, and you sweat more than you need.

This type of excessive sweating is called primary focal hyperhidrosis, and it usually starts in childhood or puberty. It occurs when the sweat glands are overactive, often in the palms of the hands and soles.

Your doctor will ask you a few questions to learn more about your symptoms. They will also check your medical history for other conditions that can cause excessive sweating.

If your sweating isn’t caused by any other health problem, the doctor will make a diagnosis of primary focal hyperhidrosis. If it’s caused by another condition, such as diabetes or obesity, the doctor will diagnose secondary hyperhidrosis.

The doctor will want to know what areas of your body are affected, how frequently you sweat, and if your symptoms get worse in warm environments or stressful situations. They may ask you to use a special antiperspirant, take medicine, or do something else that helps you keep your skin dry.

Your doctor might also order laboratory tests to find out the cause of your excessive sweating. These tests might include a complete blood count, blood sugar levels, or thyroid-stimulating hormone.

You will also be asked about your family history of hyperhidrosis. If you have a parent or sibling with hyperhidrosis, your doctor might recommend that you see a specialist for treatment.

Most people with primary focal hyperhidrosis have family members who also have the condition. In about 30 to 50 percent of cases, they have a genetic predisposition to hyperhidrosis.

A doctor can help you manage your hyperhidrosis by providing tips for coping with the discomfort and embarrassment it causes. You may also receive mental health counseling.


Sweating is an important body function that helps you regulate temperature. But some people sweat excessively — for no apparent reason. This condition is called hyperhidrosis, and it affects millions of people worldwide.

The sweating can cause a lot of embarrassment and anxiety. It can also interfere with daily activities and cause social isolation.

Some people with hyperhidrosis don’t have any other health problems, but others experience sweating as a symptom of another medical condition or a medication they take. Uncovering the underlying condition and getting treatment can help lessen the sweating.

Excessive sweating can occur in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, armpits and groin area or on the forehead. Often the sweating is worse during hot weather, during exercise or when feeling nervous or stressed.

Typically, the sweating starts in childhood or adolescence, and it usually affects both sides of the body. It can be inherited or develop slowly.

It can occur in people of all races and ages. It is more common in people with a family history of the condition, and it can be more severe in some people than others.

There are several different types of hyperhidrosis. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is the most common type. It is caused by a minor malfunction of the nerves that control sweating. Secondary focal hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying condition, and it is usually more severe than primary focal hyperhidrosis.

Some medical conditions, including some thyroid disorders and diabetes, can cause excessive sweating. Other conditions, such as pheochromocytoma (a benign tumor of the adrenal glands), may increase your risk of developing this condition.

This condition can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Medications, such as antidepressants and insulin, can help relieve these symptoms.

A mental health counselor can also help you manage your symptoms and cope with them. This can be helpful for some people with hyperhidrosis who have difficulty dealing with their condition alone.

There are a variety of treatments available for hyperhidrosis, including medications, injections and surgery. Medications can help treat the overactive sweat glands, as well as other symptoms of the condition, such as depression and social anxiety.


Diagnosis is a process that starts with an interview with your doctor, who will ask questions about how often you sweat and what seems to trigger it. Then, your doctor may recommend blood, urine or other lab tests to find out what’s causing the problem.

A health care provider might also use an iodine-starch test or a paper test to help pinpoint the areas of your body that are sweating excessively. Usually, the doctor will put iodine on the area and then sprinkle starch over it. Then, the doctor will take a look to see if any of the areas are blue in color.

When the test shows that you’re sweating excessively in one place, your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis of hyperhidrosis. The most common diagnosis is primary focal hyperhidrosis, which can affect your hands, armpits and feet.

Treatment is focused on reducing the amount of sweat and improving your quality of life. It can include lifestyle changes, such as avoiding caffeine and spicy food. It can also include medications, such as antiperspirants and topical creams.

If your sweating is caused by another medical condition, such as heart disease or cancer, your doctor will treat that underlying condition to decrease your sweating. Occasionally, your doctor will need to do other tests, such as a blood test or a thyroid function test, to find out what’s causing your sweating.

Medications that have proven effective in treating hyperhidrosis include ditropan(r) and robinul(r). These anticholinergics work by blocking the chemical messengers that cause your eccrine glands to over-produce sweat. Side effects of these drugs can include dry mouth, drowsiness, constipation and urinary retention.

The best results are usually achieved through the use of a combination of medications and other therapies. Your doctor might recommend a variety of treatments, depending on the type of hyperhidrosis you have.

For example, if you have primary focal hyperhidrosis, your doctor may suggest using botulinum toxin A, iontophoresis or a surgical procedure called thoracoscopic sympathectomy. The surgery is performed with minimally invasive techniques, and it can reduce your sweating significantly.


Sweating is your body’s natural reaction to exercise, warm temperatures, and feeling nervous or stressed. However, for some people it can become a problem. This is known as hyperhidrosis, and it’s a common condition that affects millions of Americans.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to help control your excessive sweating. Your provider can help you find a treatment that’s right for you and your needs.

Antiperspirants, which come in both over-the-counter and prescription strength sprays, roll-ons or lotions, are usually the first line of defense. These are applied to dry skin at night and washed off in the morning.

Prescription topical medications (like triclosan or iontophoresis) are also often effective in controlling hyperhidrosis. These are applied to the area that sweats, such as the underarms or feet, and can be used alone or in combination with other therapies.

Oral medicines that block sweat gland stimulation are another option. These include glycopyrrolate and oxybutynin, which are both in the class of drugs called anticholinergics.

These are a good choice for most patients with secondary generalized or focal hyperhidrosis, because they’re effective at controlling sweating. They also reduce side effects like dry eyes, dry mouth and blurred vision.

Botulin toxin injections are also an effective and minimally invasive treatment for some patients with primary focal hyperhidrosis, especially those who don’t respond to other therapies. This treatment blocks the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands, and can provide long-term relief from excess sweating.

Other treatments may be considered in more severe cases of hyperhidrosis, such as iontophoresis. This method uses a small electrical current that’s sent through water to the hands and feet to stop sweating.

Laser therapy is another treatment that can reduce excessive sweating. It targets the affected areas with a focused beam of heat. This can be used to treat odor-causing perspiration and is done under the guidance of your dermatologist.

Surgery is another option that’s only considered for the most severe cases of hyperhidrosis. Your provider will recommend this procedure if conservative treatments don’t work.