Sweating 101; Do You Sweat A lot? : ThyBlackMan

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Sweating 101; Do You Sweat A lot?

August 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Misc., News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Almost 8 million people in the U.S. suffer from hyperhidrosis, a condition where someone sweats unpredictably and more often than necessary.

Why We Sweat

We have 2-4 million sweat glands in our bodies, concentrated on the forehead, face, hands underarms, and feet. They produce sweat that’s excreted through skin pores to protect us from overheating. As the sweat evaporates, it cools our skin down, says David Pariser, MD, professor in the department of  dermatology at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va.

Regular sweating controls our body temperature and body water. We always sweat to some degree, but it’s more noticeable in hot environments, during exercising, or in times of physical or psychological stress.

Why Am I Sweating More Than I Should?

Many people with hyperhidrosis sweat about four times more than normal, although it could be much more or much less. The key is that they sweat a lot at times the body does not need to cool down. Someone could be calm, relaxed, and cool, but still sweat excessively.

Researchers aren’t sure what causes hyperhidrosis, but doctors think there may be something wrong between the pathways from the sweat glands to the brain. It appears that the glands are too sensitive in people with hyperhidrosis. This problem may be hardwired in some people. Also, hyperhidrosis tends to run in families — up to two-thirds of people have it their family, says Pariser. And it tends to start in puberty.

Pariser says that hyperhydrosis tends to show itself in three to four areas: Under the arms, on the hands, then on the feet, face, and scalp. But excessive sweating can occur all over the body. The sweating is usually symmetric, meaning that both sides of the body are affected similarly.

How Much Is Too Much Sweat?

When it comes to diagnosing hyperhidrosis, it’s so much not the quantity of sweat, but how it impacts the patient’s quality of life, Pariser says.

Someone could sweat two times or eight times the normal amounts, but both of those people still have hyperhidrosis, he says.

It’s too much if you have to think about your sweating and have to act in some way,” Pariser says.

For example, someone with hyperhidrosis may only wear dark clothing, or bring three of the same shirt to work to change during the day to hide the sweat. Some people even stuff paper towels or maxi pads in the underarms. If they have sweaty hands, they may always hold a wet drink to have an excuse not to shake hands in social situations like a cocktail party, he says.

Sweat Relief

A number of treatment options are available for those with hyperhidrosis. Dermatologists will start first with prescription strength antiperspirants.

If this doesn’t work, doctors will try iontophoresis, which is treatment with low-level electrical currents, or botulinum toxin (Botox) injections, which block the signal that activates sweat glands. These treatments are repeated when signs of sweating come back. Other drugs that that interfere with sweat glands are available if the preferred treatments don’t work, although they may cause more severe side effects. Surgery to remove sweat glands or cut the nerves to glands is a last resort, says Pariser.

Out of the 8 million people currently dealing with hyperhidrosis, only about 40% have discussed it with a health care professional.

Sweating isn’t something people want to talk about,” says Pariser. There’s a stigma with excessive sweating.” So, young people often don’t get treatment that could help with this embarrassing problem. “When it starts in the teens and they bring it up to parents or doctors, it’s often blown off as a teen whose body is changing,” says Pariser. “Then they think there is something wrong when it’s a medical condition that is treatable.”

Written By Lucas Johnson


Comments

2 Responses to “Sweating 101; Do You Sweat A lot?”
  1. Great post, i used to be very insecure and i found that this not only caused sweating but it also caused an odor, but I’m concerned about the botox. Isnt sweating a natural way for your body to release toxins?

  2. John says:

    Dr Pariser is one of the founders of the International Hyperhidrosis Society (www.SweatHelp.org) so he def knows what he’s talking about here.

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