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Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)


Imagine, you are sitting with your friends, chit-chatting and having fun with them and suddenly

you are sweating heavily without any apparent reason. It will be a hassle for you and your

friends. But sometimes it is more than just an irritation. It’s a medical condition known as

hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating. It can be due to some medications or some underlying

medical conditions.

Hyperhidrosis is a condition where person’s underarms or palms or soles experience excessive

sweat without any reasons like hot temperature or exercise. In most of the cases it is harmless but

it can make that person more anxious and socially awkward. Due to this, such people keep

avoiding social gatherings or hand shake or even going close to their children.

Causes of hyperhidrosis

Eccrine sweat glands are the major sweat glands of our body (present in large amount in our

soles and palms). Sometimes, these glands work overtime without any reason and keep secreting


Moreover, reason for hyperhidrosis can be some neurologic, infectious, endocrine or other

systemic diseases.

Types of hyperhidrosis

Type of hyperhidrosis will help us to identify the actual reason for the same. Both the types of

hyperhidrosis are discussed below:

1. Primary focal hyperhidrosis (localized sweating):

It usually starts in childhood or adolescence. Although, it’s a medical condition but does

not cause any illness or harm to the person. Here, sweating occurs at some specific parts

of our body such as head, face, feet, hands, underarms; that’s why it is known as

localized hyperhidrosis. It may be hereditary; while some experts says that there can be

malfunction in some of our nerves, but we don’t have any evidence about such


2. Secondary hyperhidrosis (generalized sweating)

It causes sweating all over the body but it is not that common. This condition can be more

serious having some underlying medical reason behind this excessive sweating.

One obvious cause of this condition is excessive sweating at night.

Possible reasons for secondary hyperhidrosis:

  • Side effects of some drugs (psychiatric drug, antibiotics, blood pressure medications)

  • Heart attack

  • Pregnancy

  • Thyroid problems

  • Menopause

  • Stroke

  • Blood cancer

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Diabetes

  • Acromegaly

  • Mercury poisoning

  • Respiratory failure

  • Some infections: HIV, malaria, TB

Signs you should see a doctor

  • Night sweats

  • Sweating accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, insomnia, cough, and increased thirst or urination.

  • Asymmetrical sweating

  • Symptoms of sweating after using some drugs

  • Sudden changes in sweating amount


At first, doctor will ask some basic questions like: how is excessive sweat affecting his normal

life, is it affecting his relationships with others, how often he/she change their clothes due to

sweating, how often they take bath etc.

Doctor will try to identify some underlying causes by doing some blood and urine test

After that, to confirm hyperhidrosis, there are some diagnostic tests available:

  • Thermoregulatory sweat test: Here, they apply moisture sensitive powder to the skin. Powder will change its color due to excessive sweating at room temperature. This will help the doctor to know the severity of hyperhidrosis.

  • Starch iodine test: Iodine is applied on sweaty area. Then starch is sprinkled when iodine dries. If that area turns into dark blue color, person is suffering from excessive sweating.

  • Paper test: Special type of paper is used which is kept on sweaty area and then weighed. More the weight, more the sweat.

Sometimes, hyperhidrosis is so severe that it can be discomforting or embarrassing. It may affect

person’s emotional stability, personal relationships, career options and self-image. So there are

some treatments which can subside the symptoms.


  • Iontophoresis

  • Botox injections

  • Anticholinergic drugs

  • Antiperspirants

  • MiraDRY

  • Lasers that can target and kill underarm sweat glands.

  • Surgery to cut nerves that carry messages to sweat glands (only in severe cases)

Facts and Figures

  • Over 15 million people suffer from excessive sweating in U.S.

  • It can affect male and female equally.

  • 65% of people suffers from underarm sweating

  • 30-50% of people suffering from hyperhidrosis have family history

  • People can have hyperhidrosis whether they live in warm or cold environment.

So, sometimes it becomes a problem to many, but with the help of doctor one can ease their symptoms and can lead a normal life.

Vani Morabiya

Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology

St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad


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