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What to Do if You Sweat Too Much

Learn what excessive sweating is and what you can do to prevent it.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
January 25, 2011

Page 1 of 2

Imagine this:  You have just arrived to an important job interview that you’ve been preparing for months.  You picked out the most stylish suit you could find at the mall. You practiced your answers to the most common interview questions in the mirror.  And when you walk in eagerly to meet your potential future boss, you feel totally confident.  Until you stick out your right hand to greet her and feel the moisture and sweat practically dripping off your palm.  And what was that? Did she just wipe her hands off on her pant leg? “Why me?!” you ask yourself?

Excessive sweating, a fancy medical term referred to as hyperhidrosis, is not typically a serious medical condition, but it can be quite embarrassing for many patients. 

Hyperhidrosis doesn’t just affect the hands.  Patients also complain that they can’t lift their arms, for fear of exposing growing circles of sweat, and they’re tired of staining their clothing. Other patients have such sweaty feet that they need to change socks multiple times a day. So what exactly is excessive sweating and what can you do about it?

What Is Hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that usually affects one or two parts of the body, such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or underarms, and though it affects both sides of the body, it’s not usually found “all over” the body—so just because your feet are super sweaty doesn’t mean your face and back will be sweaty too.

This condition begins in childhood or adolescence and becomes a lifelong issue.  It also tends to be genetic and runs in families.  When it is excessive, my patients report that it really decreases their quality of life and it’s something they feel they really have to battle with at least once a week.  It can be worsened in situations causing emotional stress and with heat, but not always.

What Causes Excessive Sweating?

Sweat glands coat the entire surface of the palms, soles, and underarms.  They also exist on the face, chest, and back to a lesser degree.  These glands help relieve the body of excessive heat and higher temperatures by releasing heat and fluid.  Sweat glands can be stimulated by emotional stress—such as being super nervous for a job interview.  In those with an excessive sweating disorder, that response is exaggerated.  And this over-exaggeration is simply a genetic condition.

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