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Hyperhidrosis, excessive sweatingHyperhidrosis, as the name implies, occurs when the body produces “hyper” or extreme amounts of sweat. According to Mayo Clinic and Harvard University School of Medicine research, excessive sweating may occur on feet, underarms, or palms. Scientists don’t know what precisely what causes the condition but there appears to be a sympathetic nervous system function connection. Many cases begin in childhood, so it’s important to seek medical attention when the condition is suspected. Extreme sweating can be severe, and the condition can cause social avoidance or physical dehydration.

Almost three million patients in the United States live with the condition. Mayo Clinic reports that the condition may worsen over time. This is a serious illness that requires diagnosis and treatment from a board-certified dermatologist such as Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta. There is help for extreme sweating.


The body is naturally cooled by processes relating to the autonomic nervous system, part of the central nervous system (CNS). The sweat glands, located on hair follicles and the skin’s outer layer, are controlled without an individual’s need to think about whether he or she is too hot. Sweat glands simply produce enough perspiration to automatically cool down the body. The various types of hyperhidrosis determine how much sweat the patient’s body produces:

Primary Focal: This type usually occurs in focal areas, such as either or both sides of the body. People who suffer extreme sweating of hands, underarms, feet, and head-face usually have this excessive sweating type. The patient may sweat mostly in the daytime hours and is less likely to occur during sleep. The condition usually starts in childhood and may be related to the individual’s genetics. Other relatives may suffer from the same condition.

Generalized: Patients with generalized excessive sweating may experience a sudden onset of the condition. Unlike the focal type, patients’ sweating may continue day and night. This type may be caused by other conditions, including hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid gland), menopause, or blood disorders such as leukemia. Some medicines, such as antidepressants, or rigorous physical exercise can cause this form of extreme sweats.


Dr. Kathleen J. Smith first rules out other causes for the patient’s extreme sweating. She will take a family history, perform a physical examination and draw blood for lab analysis. This enables Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta to test for any other physical conditions that may increase heavy sweating, e.g. hyperthyroidism.


Prescription medicines may help some patients. Most over-the-counter antiperspirants aren’t successful remedies for excessive sweating. A clinical strength prescription antiperspirant may offer some relief. These medicines are best applied at night before bedtime. They may irritate the skin, so it’s important to wash the medicine off in the morning. Other medicines, called anticholinergics, can be prescribed to prevent sweat glands from over-production. Dr. Kathleen Smith may recommend other treatments or procedures to block the sweat glands from producing excessive perspiration.

Botox may also help to prevent excessive sweating. This treatment is administered by injection to block or prevent over-productive sweat glands from making too much sweat. Multiple treatments may be required before the patient gets relief, and the treatment isn’t permanent. Botox is absorbed by the body over a period of months, so appropriate levels must be maintained.

Surgery is the only treatment option that provides permanent relief to the patient. For instance, a patient with excessive underarm sweating may feel completely disabled. He or she may find working outside of the home or interacting with others too embarrassing and/or stressful. If other treatments are unsuccessful, surgery works by removing nerves which stimulate sweat glands. In rare cases, the patient may experience increased sweat production in another body location after this surgical treatment.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the patient suffering from confirmed hyperhidrosis must seek treatment. Without decreasing excessive sweat production, he or she may experience fungal infections of the skin or nails. Excessive sweating of the feet may help fungal toenail disease to spread. Viral infections, such as warts, or bacterial skin infections are more common because of the constant moisture produced. Skin rashes and irritation are common and pores in the vicinity of sweat glands may be infected or blocked. Most importantly, social distress and embarrassment from the constancy of the condition are one of the most important reasons to seek treatment.


Patients with excessive sweating can receive the relief they need from Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta. Parents or patients in the greater Atlanta metro area — including Decatur, North Decatur, Druid Hills/North Druid Hills, Panthersville, Chamblee, Doraville, Redan, East Point, Forest Park and Sandy Springs, GA — should make an appointment with Dr. Kathleen Smith by calling 678-904-4932 today.

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