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What causes excessive sweating?

Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that goes beyond the body’s natural physiological functions of heat and exercise. It is a common ailment with various effective treatments, the newest of which are oral anticholinergics.

Causes

Primary hyperhidrosis is caused by a malfunctioning autonomic nervous system, a part of the peripheral nervous system which is responsible for regulating involuntary physiological processes such as sweat. Faulty nerve signals and an excessive presence of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine is what triggers the body’s sweat glands to produce and release an excessive amount of sweat. It usually affects the palms, soles, underarms and sometimes the face, and there is usually a genetic precondition behind this disorder.

Treatment

Depending on the severity and the location of the hyperhidrosis, a medical specialist may recommend some of the following treatments:

  • Prescription antiperspirants. A doctor may prescribe strong antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride.
  • Prescription creams. Special creams containing glycopyrrolate may help ameliorate the effects of hyperhidrosis in the face and head.
  • Botox injections. These can be used to block the nerves that trigger the sweat glands.
  • Anticholinergic drugs. While not specifically designed for treating hyperhidrosis, medications like glycopyrrolate and oxybutynin are often prescribed for this purpose due to their proven results.
  • Iontophoresis. This alternative home treatment is a non-invasive option when the heavy sweating occurs in the hands and feet. It involves soaking these body parts in a bowl of water while a special device passes a mild electric current through the water. The current has the effect of blocking the nerves that trigger the sweating.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be an option in severe cases, and always as a last resort. Outright removal of the sweat glands can be done via curettage or liposuction. Alternatively, for excessive hand sweating, removing a small section of spinal nerves may be an option.
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