Hyperhidrosis Fact Sheet
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Hyperhidrosis treatment at UK HealthCare
Dr. Timothy Mullett, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and Dr. Karin Swartz, a neurosurgeon, have teamed up to offer surgical treatment for hyperhidrosis.
Sweat is the body's natural temperature-control mechanism. But excessive, uncontrollable sweating-a condition known as hyperhidrosis-can be an embarrassing problem. Hyperhidrosis affects millions of Americans, but as many as 40 percent of sufferers never seek out the many treatments that are available.
Diagnosing hyperhidrosis isn't particularly complicated. If the patient is sweating excessively, especially when at rest or otherwise in the absence of heat or stimulus, he or she probably has hyperhidrosis. Medical tests are available to quantify the amount of sweat a person is producing.
Some hyperhidrosis occurs as a symptom of another medical condition. In secondary hyperhidrosis, sweating is usually not confined to one area of the body, and patients often sweat in their sleep. Conditions that most commonly induce hyperhidrosis include: anxiety disorders, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, glucose control disorders, cancer, menopause, spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and heart or lung disease.
When a patient's excessive sweating is not tied to another condition, he or she has primary hyperhidrosis. A specific cause is unknown, but the condition appears to run in families. Primary hyperhidrosis sufferers usually do not experience heavy sweating during their sleep. The sweat is usually confined to a specific part of the body-typically the armpits, palms, face or feet.
The effects of hyperhidrosis can be severe. It can dramatically decrease the utility of the affected body part (for instance, sweaty palms weaken your grip) and is often embarrassing. It impacts relationships and career choices and can lead to unhealthy withdrawal from social activities.
Treatment often begins with use of a strong antiperspirant to plug the sweat glands. These products might be used in conjunction with other treatments. Some particularly strong antiperspirants are available only with a prescription.
Although these treatments have not been studied as extensively as other remedies, some patients have reported positive effects after using glycopyrrolate (Robinuk, Robinul-Forte). Side effects include dizziness, dry mouth and urinary troubles.
This procedure is most effective in treating hyperhidrosis of the hands. The hands are placed in a water bath, then a small electrical current is passed through the water (only strong enough for the patient to feel a slight tingle). The electricity temporarily blocks the sweat glands. Iontophoresis requires several sessions, each of which lasts 10-20 minutes. The Food and Drug Administration has approved this therapy for treatment of hyperhidrosis.
Injections of botulinum toxin type A (commonly known as botox) fight underarm perspiration in much the same way they fight forehead wrinkles: by suppressing the nerves that cause it. The FDA has approved this treatment of underarm sweating.
If none of these therapies is effective, patients might consider endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS surgery). This minimally invasive but irreversible procedure turns off the signal that is directing the hands to sweat excessively. In ETS surgery, an endoscope is inserted through tiny incisions under the arm and used to identify the problematic nerve. A surgeon then removes or destroys that nerve. ETS is performed under general anesthesia and requires that the patient's lung be collapsed to give doctors room to work.
ETS carries significant risks, including an increase in sweating. It should only be considered after other options have been exhausted. But for patients who are considering ETS, UK HealthCare offers a multidisciplinary surgical team to help ensure the best results.
Dr. Timothy Mullett, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and Dr. Karin Swartz, a neurosurgeon, have teamed up to offer surgical treatment for hyperhidrosis. By combining two surgical disciplines, they bring a broadly informed approach to this serious medical condition. Their cooperative effort ensures that the risks and benefits of surgery are carefully weighed in the context of each patient's individual needs.
To make an appointment, call 1-800-333-8874 .
To find out more
International Hyperhidrosis Society
American Academy of Dermatology