Reader: I really think I sweat too much. Why does this happen and what can I do about it now that warmer weather has arrived?
The more important question is this: When do you think you sweat too much?
If you feel you sweat too much when it’s warm outside or you’ve exerted yourself, then your body is simply regulating its temperature. For example, if you’ve been walking outside for a few hours on a day when the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re sporting some embarrassingly damp armpits, you’re sweating because you’re hot and your body needs to cool down. Go indoors and sip a cold drink until your body temperature comes down a bit.
On the other hand, if you’ve been indoors in an air-conditioned building all day and still find yourself sweating as though you’re in a sauna, you may have a condition called “hyperhidrosis.”
Hyperhidrosis is a common condition that causes intense and frequent blushing and sweating that exceeds the body’s need to cool itself. This means that you may sweat profusely even if the temperature is at a comfortable level. People who suffer from hyperhidrosis often suffer from clammy hands and excessive facial and underarm perspiration.
While hyperhidrosis isn’t harmful, it can lead to negative emotional effects. People often feel embarrassed by the condition and some may even choose to avoid social interaction due to the physiological symptoms.
The first (and easiest) thing to try is a heavy-duty, over-the-counter anti-perspirant. Products containing aluminum chloride have been shown to reduce sweating by effectively “plugging” pores. Certain-Dri Anti-Perspirant contains a 12% concentration of aluminum chloride while Corad’s Maxim contains a 10.8% aluminum chloride concentration.
These products may itch or sting, especially if applied over broken skin. If you experience this side effect, discontinue use and try again in a few days. Dermatologists recommend applying aluminum chloride anti-perspirants at night before going to bed. You can use this for hands as well by applying the product to palms at night. You should see results within the first week.
If over-the-counter products don’t work, ask your doctor for a prescription anti-perspirant. These can come in concentrations as high as 25%, but the stinging sensation is more common with these products.
Another option is Botox. We associate Botox with getting rid of wrinkles, but it also works to stop underarm sweating. The FDA has approved the use of Botox as a treatment for excessive underarm sweating. Botox disables the sweat glands and the effects last anywhere from four to nine months. Talk to your dermatologist to see if you’re a good candidate for this treatment.
Finally, the most extreme option is surgery. Some patients opt to undergo endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (or ETS). This minimally invasive procedure involves cutting out or clipping small amounts of sympathetic nerves in order to reduce sweat activity to certain regions of the body. While this has proven effective for many patients who suffer from hyperhidrosis, there are side effects including compensatory sweating (other areas of the body may sweat more) and poor thermoregulation. Although this is a minimally invasive surgery, it should be considered and researched carefully before going ahead.