Excessive Perspiration

What is Hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition where an individual experiences excessive perspiration – sweating beyond the amount needed for the body to maintain a constant internal (core) temperature of 37°C.

Hyperhidrosis can occur in two forms, focal or generalised hyperhidrosis. In focal hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating is localised to particular areas of the body and individuals are usually affected at the palms of the hands, soles of feet, axillae (under-arms), or face.  In generalised hyperhidrosis, however, most of the body is affected.

Although hyperhidrosis is not a malignant condition, it is one that can have a severe psychological impact on the individual as it can have debilitating effects on their self-esteem, personal relationships and professional life. The most commonly affected domains include social relationships, self-expression, self-improvement, work, and active recreation.

What causes hyperhidrosis?

The exact cause of hyperhidrosis is not known.

In focal hyperhidrosis individuals already have a high production of sweat, and it has been found that an abnormal function of the central sympathetic nervous system also contributes.

The sympathetic nervous system is the portion of the nervous system that controls the body’s energy and resources during stress or arousal stimuli.

Therefore, when a person with focal hyperhidrosis experiences such stimuli (e.g. excitement or fear) their sweat glands produce even more perspiration.

What are the signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis?

Hyperhidrosis can present at any age, but it tends to be highest among working-age adults. Individuals experience frequent staining and needing to change clothes. Due to the continual wetness, however, individuals who have axillary hyperhidrosis may experience a softening and whitening of the skin; allowing it to become easily infected and painful. As a result, complications such as bacterial or fungal overgrowth can occur and, in more serious cases, can cause muscle spasm and inflamed dermatitis.