Hyperhidrosis: Here’s Why You Experience Sudden Excessive Sweating
Have you ever wondered why you sweat excessively sometimes for no apparent reason? Trust me when I say that you’re not alone in this, and I’m really tired of people saying it’s because I consume too much salt. Did you hear that too? Well, before I begin, I think it’s time to put that belief away because sweating isn’t the body’s primary way of eliminating salt. Something else deserves the blame for your sweating problem, and I’ll be exposing the culprit in this article.
I wrote about this topic before, but here’s a much-needed update. Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by sudden excessive sweating that is far from what you would consider ‘normal‘, especially when you’re not hot or doing strenuous exercise. You just sit there seeing a movie or talking to your crush, and your palms and feet, underarms and forehead start dripping with sweat. This can be so embarrassing and has frustrated me all my life. So what’s causing this anomaly? The primary aim of sweating is to regulate the temperature of the body because sweat causes a cooling effect when it evaporates from the surface of the skin.
Sudden excessive sweating due to hyperhidrosis greatly affects the quality of life of people from a psychological, emotional, and social perspective. Symptoms include excessive sweating on the palms and feet (Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis), armpits, forehead or face (Craniofacial hyperhidrosis), and in the groin area. Some people report that they only suffer from excessive sweating at night.
Many of us at some point in our lives have come across people who have this condition (or we do ourselves), and we often wonder if something is wrong with them or ourselves.
What Causes Excessive Sweating?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but the cause of ‘primary hyperhidrosis‘ is relatively unknown, although some physicians claim it is caused by an hyperactive sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety or excitement can only make matters worse and may trigger what I like to call ‘Sweat Mode’ even when they are in well air-conditioned environments.
One thing I have observed is that I get nervous because I sweat, and when I think about how I look all sweaty, I become even more nervous. It’s a frustrating cycle. Other factors can play a role, including certain foods and drinks, nicotine, caffeine, and smells.
From experience, common triggers may include a sudden change in surrounding temperature, anxiety, and fear (especially during an exam). When excessive sweating affects the hands, feet, and armpits, it is called primary or focal hyperhidrosis. In most cases, no cause can be found. It seems to run in families and can be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. If excessive sweating occurs as a result of another medical condition, it is called secondary hyperhidrosis.
The sudden excessive sweating may occur all over the body or maybe from just one area. Secondary hyperhidrosis has been linked to certain medical conditions which include acromegaly, anxiety, cancer, carcinoid syndrome, certain medications and substances of abuse, glucose control disorders, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, lung disease, menopause, Parkinson’s disease, pheochromocytoma, spinal cord injury, stroke, tuberculosis or other infections.
Most people I’ve come across with this problem have primary hyperhidrosis with no identifiable cause. Sudden excessive sweating in hyperhidrosis that occurs on different parts of the body is mostly associated with primary hyperhidrosis.
Excessive sweating that affects only one side of the body is a sign of secondary hyperhidrosis, and you need to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Test For Excessive Sweating
The following methods can be used to test for the condition effectively.
- Starch-iodine test: To carry out this test, an iodine solution is applied to the sweaty area. After it dries, starch is sprinkled on the area. The starch-iodine combination turns a dark blue color wherever there is excess sweat.
- Paper test: A special paper is placed on the affected area to absorb the sweat, and then weighed. The heavier it weights, the more sweat has accumulated.
- Blood tests: These may be requested if you’re suspected of having thyroid problems or other medical conditions.
Treatment For Excessive Sweating
The good news is that if you have this problem, it’s not the end of the world. Science is constantly evolving and there are now new techniques to put an end to your sudden excessive sweating disorder. I did a little research, and I discovered some of the available treatment and remedies below.
Excessive sweating can be controlled with strong antiperspirants, which somehow block the sweat ducts. Products containing 10% to 20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate are the first line of treatment for underarm sweating. Some people may be prescribed a product containing a higher dose of aluminum chloride, which is applied nightly onto the affected areas. Antiperspirants can cause skin irritation, and large doses of aluminum chloride can damage clothing. Note that deodorants are not antiperspirants, and they do not prevent sweating but help reduce body odor. So next time you’re out to buy an antiperspirant, be sure to check its content or see your doctor to prescribe a good brand depending on the severity of your condition.
Medicines may prevent the stimulation of the sweat glands. These are prescribed for certain types of hyperhidrosis such as excessive sweating of the face. Medications have side effects and are not right for everyone. So don’t prescribe drugs for yourself, see your doctor first.
This procedure uses electricity to temporarily switch off sweat glands. It is most effective for sweating of the hands and feet. The hands or feet are placed into water, and then a gentle current of electricity is passed through it. The electricity is gradually increased until the person feels a light tingling sensation. The therapy lasts about 10 to 20 minutes and requires several sessions. Side effects, although rare, include skin cracking and blisters.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) is used to treat severe underarm sweating. This condition is called primary axillary hyperhidrosis. Botulinum toxin injected into the underarm temporarily block the nerves that stimulate sweating. Side effects include injection-site pain and flu-like symptoms. Botox used for sweating of the palms can cause mild, but temporary weakness and intense pain. Most celebrities use Botox to control their underarm sweating and it works for them, but if you hate needles, I’ll advise you to stick to Antiperspirants.
Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS)
In severe cases, a minimally-invasive surgical procedure called sympathectomy may be recommended when other treatments do not work. The procedure cuts a nerve, turning off the signal that tells the body to sweat excessively. It is usually done on people whose palms sweat much more heavily than normal. It may also be used to treat extreme sweating of the face. ETS does not work as well for those with excessive armpit sweating.
This is surgery to remove the sweat glands in the armpits. Methods used include laser, curettage (scraping), excision (cutting), or liposuction. These procedures are done using local anesthesia.
The only remedy I have tried is the use of Antiperspirants and they work wonders for excessive underarm sweating. Well, you can’t use those on your face, so the best advice anyone can give is to observe proper body hygiene and manage the condition because you know your body better than anyone. You should be able to identify your own triggers and plan a strategy to avoid them. I avoid walking too fast or running, drink lots and lots of water to replenish body reserves. I always hold a handkerchief when I leave home and avoid extremely hot environments.
My final advice for you to control anxiety-triggered excessive sweating is this; when everything else fails and you start sweating profusely, take deep breaths, try to take your mind off it, ignore whoever is staring at you, wipe the sweat of your face, swirl your handkerchief to generate ‘air currents’ to increase evaporation of sweat but don’t do it too forcefully or risk worsening the situation. Do all this and you should be fine.
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