What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhydrosis is a medical condition, which causes us to perspire much more than the body’s physiological needs require. When the body temperature rises or we undergo a stressful situation, our body physiologically responds and starts sweating.
People who complain of hyperhidrosis have very hyperactive autonomic sweat glands. Though it is often difficult to understand why some people sweat profusely, studies reveal that sweating is under the control of sympathetic nervous system. When a patient complains of excessive sweating, the doctor conducts some regular tests. These tests are necessary to verify hyperhidrosis. The severity of hyperhidrosis varies and so does the treatment. It ranges from strong antiperspirants to minor surgical options. Hyperhidrosis is not a serious condition, but it definitely can cause a lot of embarrassment and discomfort.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
The SNS or Sympathetic Nervous System is a part of the automatic nervous system in combination with the parasympathetic and enteric nervous systems. It is active at the basal level (sympathetic tone) and becomes more active at the time of stress.
The sympathetic nervous system functions in our body to produce a local adjustment such as sweating. When nervous or under stress, the entire nervous system activates and there is an immediate response by the body. This is the “fight or flight” response, which involves the release of epinephrine from adrenal glands, causing excessive sweating.
Types of Hyperhidrosis
Primary Hyperhidrosis: If you are not sweating excessively due to the side effects of drugs or a medical condition, then you probably have primary hyperhidrosis. Research has shown that the first signs of primary hyperhidrosis occur in childhood or early adolescence. Primary hyperhidrosis usually starts around puberty. The person with this form of hyperhidrosis undergoes excessive sweating of the hands, especially on their palms, underarms and on the soles of the feet. The sweating usually occurs during the day with no obvious reasons. It occurs simultaneously on both sides, i.e… both palms. The person however, does not sweat when sleeping.
Hyperhidrosis is not associated with any fundamental condition. The precise cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown. It may be genetic, as most times it is found in a person’s family history. The severity of your
condition can affect your quality of life. As mentioned earlier, nervousness and anxiety increase sweating and can make you feel more uncomfortable. This condition is frustrating and requires a continuous changing of clothes due to the mess and odor left by the sweat.
Secondary Hyperhidrosis: This kind of excessive sweating is caused by medical conditions or as a side effect of drugs used. People suffering from secondary hyperhidrosis sweat on large areas of the body and often complain of sweating while resting. Secondary hyperhidrosis can start at any time in your life. Such hyperhidrosis is often caused by menopause, tumors, diabetes, gout, certain drugs, disorders of the thyroid, pituitary glands and any other infectious disease. The excessive sweating is controllable by adjusting the medication, or treating the underlying cause.
Facial Hyperhidrosis: Facial hyperhidrosis causes excessive sweat to form on the face. It can also occur on the scalp, and equally affects both men and women. Such sweating can be a cause of acute embarrassment because it makes the person appear insecure. A person may also experience facial blushing, which is caused by the sympathetic nervous system.
Axillary Hyperhidrosis: A person with axillary hyperhidrosis experiences excessive underarm sweating. When the sympathetic nervous system overreacts, it causes the sweat under your arms. This is a form of a primary hyperhidrosis which usually begins at a young age, and can cause a lot of embarrassment.
Palmar Hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating of the palms is caused by hyper-activation of the sweat glands. A person with palmar hyperhidrosis often finds themselves in an awkward position when required to shake hands.
Plantar Hyperhidrosis: People with plantar hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating of the feet and often foot odor as well. Other side effects include fungal infection of the toenails and athletes foot.
Myths and Facts about Hyperhidrosis...
Myth: I can do nothing but accept the fact that my body has the tendency to sweat a lot and suffer in silence.
Fact: There are treatments available that can significantly improve your quality of life.
Myth: The only option for people suffering with excessive sweating underarms is wearing only dark colors.
Fact: Your excessively sweaty underarms may be hyperhidrosis. There are treatments available now. Instead of hiding your stains, treat them.
Myth: Hyperhidrosis is not a serious condition.
Fact: Severe hyperhidrosis may be fatal and can affect the quality of your life.
Causes of Hyperhidrosis...
To understand the cause of hyperhidrosis, it is essential to understand which kind of hyperhidrosis the patient has. As mentioned earlier, hyperhidrosis has two categories – Primary and Secondary.
The causes of excessive sweating may be:
• An overactive thyroid
• Heart disease
• Some form of medication
• Diseases like flu, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia etc…
• Hypoglycemic attack
• Alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms
Risk Factors of Hyperhidrosis
Risk factors often increase the chances of getting a condition or disease. The most important risk factor for hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes secondary hyperhidrosis, which can be brought on by the following:
• Thyroid disease
• An anterior pituitary tumor
• Disorders of the nervous system
• Alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms
• Parkinson’s disease
• Hypothalamic disorders
• Certain medications
Therefore, if you are suffering from hyperhidrosis, it is advisable that you look into the matter. As already mentioned, sweating may be an indication of an underlying cause. The risk factors may even be fatal and will affect your quality of life.
The inability of the body to sweat in response to heat is Anhydrosis. In hot and dry weather conditions, the inability to sweat can be fatal, as the body will overheat.
Following are some of the general causes of anhydrosis:
• Guillain-Barré syndrome (a neurological disorder)
• Medications and drugs
• Ectodermal dysplasia (a congenital disorder)
• Infection of the sweat glands
• Excessive dehydration
Anhydrosis can be serious, and in certain cases may lead to coma. The best treatment involves preventing dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke by drinking plenty of water.