Hyperhidrosis causes the body to sweat in excess of what it needs for thermoregulation, which means that the body is generating more sweat to regulate its internal temperature than is needed. Luckily, the excessive sweating caused by hyperhidrosis is not dangerous to your physical health. However, dealing with hyperhidrosis symptoms can be emotionally damaging and, in some cases, hyperhidrosis can be a sign of something more sinister.
When Hyperhidrosis Indicates a Serious Health Problem
How you get hyperhidrosis often indicates whether it is indicative of a deeper issue. If you suddenly develop symptoms of hyperhidrosis after the age of 25, your sweating occurs mainly at night, and you sweat all over your body you may have secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. This type of hyperhidrosis can indicate an underlying health issue as some diseases and conditions can cause secondary hyperhidrosis. Some of the diseases that cause diaphoresis (sudden, unexplained excessive sweating) can also cause pallor and other symptoms to appear at the same time. These disesases include certain cancers, tuberculosis, HIV, hyperthyroidism, and several others. These diseases are certainly bad for your health, so anyone who suddenly begins experiencing excessive sweating in adulthood should manage their hyperhidrosis with a doctor. However, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is most commonly caused by a medication or drug side effect and it can be caused by benign health conditions, so don’t panic. If hyperhidrosis develops between the ages of 14 and 25 and only affects specific areas of your body, you probably have primary focal hyperhidrosis.
The Effects of Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis That Take a Toll on Your Health
Most people with hyperhidrosis, 93% according to one medical review, have primary focal hyperhidrosis. This type usually begins during the teenage years or in very early adulthood and it is a lifelong condition. People with this type of hyperhidrosis have excessive sweating on particular parts of their body which most often includes the hands, feet, underarms, and face. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is not bad for your physical health directly, but it can be detrimental to your emotional wellbeing. Hyperhidrosis and anxiety often occur together because of the socially stigmatizing effect hyperhidrosis has on people. In fact, people with primary focal hyperhidrosis report that is causes issues in their interpersonal relationships, leisure activities, personal hygiene, work, and self-esteem. When someone struggles emotionally, or feels significantly stressed out, it can have a profound effect on their body as well as their mind. Stress sweating can make these problems even more pronounced, as it causes a cycle where someone is stressed, they sweat more as a result, and become even more stressed.
Most impairments caused by hyperhidrosis relate to the body regions that are affected. For example, someone with palmar (hand) hyperhidrosis may feel extreme embarrassment when shaking another person’s hand. The issues become even more tangible when someone with palmar hyperhidrosis drops something made of glass or sustains electrical shocks when using electronics because they are sweating so profusely. People with axillary hyperhidrosis are often restricted in the type of clothing they can comfortably wear. When someone has plantar hyperhidrosis they may even develop skin infections or athlete’s foot when wearing socks or shoes that are constricting for a long period of time. These are all examples of ways that hyperhidrosis makes life difficult for someone with hyperhidrosis, and these struggles can greatly impact quality of life. It can be so devastating that some patients resort to surgery to treat primary focal hyperhidrosis called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy. Thankfully, many patients are able to obtain a better quality of life after receiving treatment. There is no cure for hyperhidrosis, but there are effective treatments for sweaty hands, sweaty feet, and treatments for axillary hyperhidrosis. Antiperspirant is usually the first-line treatment for hyperhidrosis, but some people have had conerns about whether antiperspirant is safe. There is no point in persuing a treatment that is detrimental to your health but, luckily, no studies have found that antiperspirants are dangerous to use.
If you have hyperhidrosis, you can improve your quality of life and improve your health by learning how to manage your hyperhidrosis. You don’t have to let hyperhidrosis dictate how healthy you are emotionally or physically.
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.