sweat
(Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash)
  • Around 5% of the world deals with hyperhidrosis, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
  • The condition, which is also referred to as excessive sweating, can affect one targeted area of a person's body or be systemic, dermatologist Dr. Zakiya P. Rice told INSIDER.
  • If your entire body or an area of your body sweats more often than your body needs to regulate its normal temperature, it's a sign you have hyperhidrosis.

Being hot and sweaty can be a pretty uncomfortable experience. And for people with hyperhidrosis, that experience is a daily reality.

Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, affects about 5% of people, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. It can occur in one area of the body, like on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, or under the breasts, but it can also be systemic and affect the entire body at once, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) explained.

Here's everything you should know about hyperhidrosis.

Sweating is the body's way of cooling itself off, but if a person sweats too often, it's a sign they have hyperhidrosis

Normally, a person sweats to help their body stay at a stable temperature and, without sweat, the body would overheat. That's why you sweat when you're outside on a sunny summer day or during an intense workout. People with hyperhidrosis, however, will sweat more than their bodies need, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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A person with hyperhidrosis can either have a primary or secondary form of the condition. Primary hyperhidrosis is less common and causes the feet, armpits, or other areas to sweat excessively, according to NORD. With secondary hyperhidrosis, the cause of the sweating is related to another condition the person may have, like gout or diabetes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Doctors still don't know what exactly causes primary hyperhidrosis

Doctors have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of primary hyperhidrosis, but they do know it is related to overactivity of the sweat glands, dermatologist Dr. Zakiya P. Rice told INSIDER.

Doctors Cathryn Walton, oncologist at Cancercare and Elsabe Kitching, a radiation therapist. (Photo: Supplied)

Research has suggested the condition is genetically inherited, according to NORD, but the exact gene that could cause the disease hasn't been found yet.

Hyperhidrosis can be treated with Botox, over-the-counter products, and permanent surgeries

Although there is no straightforward explanation for the cause of hyperhidrosis, there are various treatment options for relieving excessive sweating. According to Rice, these treatments fall into four categories: topical, systemic, minimally invasive, and invasive.

The most common topical treatment, which is also the least expensive, is the well-known over-the-counter antiperspirant. These products can be found at any local drugstore, don't require a prescription, and work by blocking the pores so sweat can't escape, the International Hyperhidrosis Society explained. Rice said that other over-the-counter topical solutions that contain aluminum chloride can do the same thing as an antiperspirant if a person is affected in a place other than their armpits.

In addition to medical treatments, choosing breathable fabrics can help make a person with hyperhidrosis feel more comfortable.

If a person has systemic hyperhidrosis, however, a treatment for the entire body is better. According to Rice, glycopyrrolate is a popular systemic option that "has done really well" in clinical trials. In fact, a 2012 study of the drug found that 75% of hyperhidrosis patients who used it had decreased sweating.

For minimally invasive treatments, Rice told INSIDER that Botox is pretty common. In fact, in 2004 the injectable filler was approved as a treatment specifically for excessive underarm sweating, the International Hyperhidrosis Society said on their website. Botox treats the condition by temporarily blocking sweat gland activity and one injection procedure, which just touches the skin's surface, can last between four and 12 months, the International Hyperhidrosis Society noted.

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Radiofrequency lasers are another minimally invasive option, Rice said, but they can cost thousands and may not be financially feasible for everyone.

Lastly, there are invasive procedures that surgically remove sweat glands. According to the Mayo Clinic, sympathectomy or nerve surgery involves cutting, clamping, or burning the spinal nerves that cause the excess sweating to happen, but might not be the best option for certain types of localised hyperhidrosis, like on the hands.

Wearing the right type of clothes can make it easier to deal with hyperhidrosis

In addition to medical solutions, wearing certain fabrics or types of clothing can help make a person with hyperhidrosis feel more comfortable. In fact, to help people with the condition, fashion designer Christian Siriano recently teamed up with CheckYourSweat.com to lessen the stigma surrounding hyperhidrosis.

As someone who grew up with a friend who had the condition, Siriano realised how much it can impact a person's daily life. "It was such a hard thing for her," Siriano told INSIDER. "She hated getting dressed in the morning."

Now, to help others dealing with hyperhidrosis, Siriano is offering tips and tricks for dressing in a comfortable yet stylish way. "The goal is to embrace yourself and feel good and try different things," he told NSIDER. "People get afraid and stick to their go-to black, so I try to push people to try things they normally wouldn't like a texture or colour." He also recommends keeping layers like a blazer handy for sweat emergencies and opting for cotton or linen, since these fabrics wick sweat the best.

Most importantly, if you feel uncomfortable about excessive sweating, advocate for yourself and seek treatment, Rice told INSIDER. "If you're feeling that burden, it's not being weak. It's being real," she said.

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