Why do we sweat? One important reason is to regulate body temperature. If we didn’t have sweat glands in the skin all over our bodies, we’d need to stick out our tongues and pant like dogs to cool off in hot weather. Although that may be the function of sweating, plenty of people can tell you that’s not all there is to it. They’re the ones who perspire far more than is strictly necessary for cooling -purposes. Almost all of us sweat when we are anxious as well.
Nearly 3 percent of adults sweat too much, a condition known as hyperhidrosis. Their armpits perspire and soak their shirt or blouse. Their hands sweat and make their handshakes slippery, or their feet sweat, contributing to the growth of odor-forming bacteria and fungi. Some people find perspiration dripping from their face even when they are not exerting themselves. It appears that their nervous system goes into overdrive, telling the eccrine glands in the skin that produce sweat to make more in response to emotion.
Excessive perspiration can complicate life, but a surprising number of people don’t discuss this issue with their doctor. That is a shame, because there are some effective treatments.
“I have a problem with underarm perspiration. As a funeral director, I must wear a suit and tie, and in warm weather my coat gets soaked within 30 minutes. Some of my jackets have been ruined with perspiration stains, and I am distressed about my image.”
It’s also important to discuss this issue with a physician so he or she can rule out any potentially serious medical conditions that might be causing excessive sweating. Infections (including tuberculosis and HIV), certain cancers, panic attacks, an overactive thyroid gland, menopause, Parkinson’s disease, and a number of other conditions could be responsible. There are also some medications that can trigger embarrassing perspiration. In most cases, though, damp armpits or sweaty feet are simply a consequence of sweat glands being hypersensitive to the cues that normally stimulate perspiration.
Excessive sweating, whether of the underarms, hands, or feet, can cause people a lot of anxiety and disruption in their lives. If you have this problem, make sure you tell your doctor about it and ask for help with it. There are treatments available, so you don’t need to go on suffering.
- Begin with an over-the-counter antiperspirant such as Certain Dri. Apply it before bedtime so it has longer to work and won’t ruin your clothes.
- If you want to avoid aluminum, experiment with milk of magnesia. It can be applied daily to armpits, hands, or feet, since it dries clear.
- Try white vinegar, straight or diluted, on armpits to control sweating and odor.
- Ask your doctor about a prescription for Drysol. Apply only to dry skin at bedtime and wash it off in the morning.
- If you don’t get satisfactory results from aluminum chloride hexahydrate products, consider Botox injections every 6 to 8 months.
- Treat your sweaty hands or feet with electric current by using a prescription Drionic device.
- Soak your sweaty feet in a strong tea solution. Tannic acid is astringent and helps shut down sweat glands.
- Surgery (ETS) offers a permanent solution to hyperhidrosis, but it is also the riskiest and most expensive treatment.