Everyone sweats, because sweating is a completely natural body function. However, excessive sweating, which gets out of control, can be very stressful and affect everyday life. The so-called hyperhidrosis is a burden that does not have to be simply accepted. Read more about the different types of heavy sweating.
Signs and symptoms
Heavy sweating – not an unusual condition
Sweating is a completely normal process in the body. In warm weather or during physical activity, such as sports, everyone sweats: a salty, transparent liquid (99% water, 1% salt) is produced and secreted by the sweat glands. This vital function serves to cool the body.
But even when we are stressed or nervous we start to sweat: Now not only the sweat glands, but also the scent glands secrete sweat, even if in comparatively small amounts. This has a different composition: it is rich in protein and fat. When bacteria decompose this sweat, unwanted body odor is produced.
Many people have already started sweating excessively and unexpectedly, for example after fitness training, at high temperatures, etc. In these situations, the body secretes large amounts of moisture. However, if this happens in circumstances where we do not normally sweat, such as at moderate temperatures or at rest, then this is called hyperhidrosis. The sweat glands are overactive.
Do I sweat a lot or do I suffer from hyperhidrosis?
If you sweat a lot…
distinct wet spots form under the armpits, sweat drips from the face and the socks become damp during sports or in warm weather
Normal antiperspirants do not protect sufficiently against sweating
With Anti-Transpirants, which was specially developed for heavy sweating, there is an improvement
A change in lifestyle has a positive effect on sweating
you sweat much more than most people
At least once a week excessive perspiration breaks out
There have been cases of hyperhidrosis in the family
You suspect an underlying disease
When sweating excessively, sweat drips moderately or heavily, causing large wet spots on clothing, shoes and feet are damp and smell of sweat, or hands are damp or sweaty.
About 1% of the population sweats excessively for no apparent reason.
The term hyerhidrosis is used when sweating is excessive, i.e. when the sweating exceeds the normal level. There are two main forms.
- Excessive sweating occurs in certain parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, facial areas or under the armpits: primary (idiopathic) or focal hyperhidrosis.
- Although excessive sweating is not considered a disease in itself, it can be the symptom of an illness, sometimes even a serious one. If this is the case, it is secondary hyperhidrosis. Excessive sweating then occurs as a side effect, so to speak, of an underlying disease or a hormonal cause (e.g. pregnancy or the menopause).
People with primary or secondary hyperhidrosis often experience their condition as embarrassing, stressful and sometimes even as a severe limitation. Heavy sweating can therefore have serious psychological side effects such as fear and depression due to the feeling of shame.
Symptoms – the effects of heavy sweating
The following description may serve as a guide:
Primary hyperhidrosis is likely if the excessive sweating persists for more than 6 months. It occurs primarily under the armpits, on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or on the head. It is symmetrical, does not occur during the night and in most cases at least once a week. There is a genetic predisposition and begins before the age of 25.
In primary or focal hyperhidrosis, where only certain parts of the body are affected, these are the following:
- Armpits (axillary hyperhidrosis)
- Palms (palmar hyperhidrosis)
- Face (facial hyperhidrosis)
- Back of the knee
In these places there are especially many exocrine glands that cause sweating. In focal hyperhidrosis, sweat can break out in several parts of the body at the same time.
Frequency of hyperhidrosis
For most people with primary or focal hyperhidrosis, it is quite normal to break out in excessive sweat at least once a week (but not during sleep).
In secondary hyperhidrosis, the frequency of sweating depends on the underlying disease that causes it.
Dealing with the symptoms
Dealing with heavy perspiration can reduce the quality of life:
Frequent showering or changing during the day is time-consuming, the hesitant taking off of the jacket or discomfort when shaking hands can cause embarrassing situations, affected persons may not go to sports anymore. Sometimes even work suffers (for example, tools can slip out of hands or keyboards can become slippery in focal hyperhidrosis of the hands). This can lead to social withdrawal.
Causes and triggers
The reason for excessive sweating
The main cause of hyperhidrosis appears to be overactive sweat glands, the exocrine glands.
Research has shown that in primary or focal hyperhidrosis, the part of the brain that controls sweating sends signals to the exocrine glands even when the body does not need to be cooled. This malfunction of the autonomic nervous system stimulates sweating for no obvious reason and the person affected has to struggle with the unpleasant consequences.
Primary or focal hyperhidrosis is based on genetic factors: there is a familial clustering that applies to 30 to 50% of those affected. Relatives are or were often affected by this. Focal hyperhidrosis only affects people who are otherwise healthy, begins in puberty and is worst in the 2nd or 3rd decade of life.
A secondary hyperhidosis has different causes, for example:
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Heart diseases
- Respiratory Insufficiency
- Certain drugs
- Damage to peripheral nerves
It is therefore absolutely essential that in the case of secondary hyperhidrosis the doctor examines the affected person as soon as possible in order to make a diagnosis.
Heavy sweating can be temporary or permanent.
Even if focal hyperhidrosis is genetic, there are several factors that can contribute to sweating. These can be triggered by anxiety or nervousness in a particular situation, encounter or event, just like any other temporary sweating.
A different lifestyle, fluctuating health status, weight gain, alcohol, medication or drug consumption can cause sweating, as can climate change or changes in the weather.
If the hyperhidrosis is caused by an infection, disease or hormonal changes, then it is secondary hyperhidrosis. In such cases a doctor should be consulted.
Even small lifestyle changes can help with temporary sweating.
Treatments and measures to alleviate hyperhidrosis
There is no remedy that completely prevents sweating, because after all it is an important body function. However, there are several options available today for those affected to relieve the symptoms of hyperhidrosis. Some even offer a permanent solution.
The offered operative and conservative measures differ in terms of durability, side effects and costs. Most of the measures start at the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands.
Effective treatment can significantly improve the quality of life of those affected, so the advantages and disadvantages of a measure must be carefully weighed up.
Anti-transpirants or anti-perspirants can combat excessive underarm perspiration thanks to their main active ingredient based on aluminium salts. Usually they are recommended by the dermatologist as a first measure, as it is a “cosmetic” product and not an invasive procedure. Consequently, the aim is not to relieve the symptoms of hyperhidrosis.
Antiperspirants contain aluminium salts such as aluminium chlorohydrate (ACH) or aluminium chloride (AC) as the active ingredient. These act on the exocrine and apocrine sweat glands by penetrating the sweat ducts and temporarily narrowing them. This inhibits the formation of sweat. The narrowing is not harmful to health. Less sweat means less wetness and significantly less odour. Anti-transpirants are available as spray or roll-on. Even a small amount of antiperspirant can make a big difference and reduce the amount of sweat.
The following procedure is recommended for heavy perspiration:
Apply Eucerin Anti-Transpirant 48 h roll-on in the evening before bedtime and in the morning. If you apply the Eucerin Anti-Transpirant 48 h roll-on in the evening, the active ingredients can constrict the sweat ducts overnight and will not be washed off in the shower. Their effect lasts for at least two days. The effect can be enhanced by more frequent use.
If this is not enough, it is advisable to try the Eucerin Anti-Transpirant Intensive 72 h Pump Spray, which is extremely effective against heavy sweating and smell of sweat. Please read the following instructions for use carefully. Follow the instructions and do not use the Antiperspirant daily for long periods of time to avoid irritation.
Dermatological treatment options:
- Botulinum toxin type AThis substance is generally known under the trade name Botox. It is particularly effective in cases of axillary hyperhidrosis and is one of the best studied treatment options. Here the nerve poison is injected to prevent heavy underarm perspiration: The nerves can no longer send signals to the sweat glands and sweat production is thus inhibited.
- Iontophoresis (ion therapy)With the help of direct current, ions penetrate the skin in this procedure. The current temporarily “switches off” the sweat glands. Iontophoresis is suitable for treating focal hyperhidrosis of the hands and feet. In severe cases, surgery on the thyroid gland may even be considered. The procedures, which are usually performed by laser or surgery, prevent the body from giving the signal to sweat. These are recommended for patients with severe focal hyperhidrosis on the hands, under the armpits or face.
- Drug therapy with anticholinergicsIn this form of treatment, messenger substances inhibit the stimulation of the sweat glands. However, these are mainly used for the treatment of secondary hyperhidrosis. They have severe side effects.
Other possible measures and precautions
If you sweat a lot, certain lifestyle changes can be helpful, for example
- avoid spicy food, alcohol and coffee
- avoid direct sunlight
- Wear clothing made of natural fibres, e.g. cotton
- wear light or very dark clothing on which the signs of sweating are hardly visible
- Armpit pads. These absorb the sweat and protect the clothing.