While sweat is just a regular part of life for most, it is an agonizing problem that causes stress and anxiety on a daily basis for approximately 3 percent of people, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. Those suffering from hyperhidrosis, a relatively common condition that causes excessive sweating, report having to take extra precautions in their wardrobe choices in order to hide their problem. Several admit to one or more outfit changes throughout the day. If you suffer from excessive sweating, you may find that standard over-the-counter antiperspirants do nothing for you. Your doctor, however, has several options that may work better.
Drysol (Est. $20 for 60 ml) is the brand name for aluminum chloride hexahydrate, a prescription-strength antiperspirant. It is often the first line of defense against hyperhidrosis. Experts say that it works for 80 percent of people who use it. Consumer reviews at MakeupAlley.com, where it earns a near perfect rating from about 20 users, seem to concur, with many reporting that it changed their lives. Drysol contains 20 percent aluminum chloride, which is a stronger antiperspirant than other aluminum compounds, but it is also harsher. However, users say that Drysol only needs to be applied once or twice a week to keep perspiration under control. The manufacturer recommends using it at night and rinsing it off in the morning to reduce the chance of irritation. This prescription antiperspirant is available as a roll-on or a liquid. It should be noted that while Drysol requires a prescription in the U.S., you can get it over the counter in Canada and via Canadian mail order in the U.S.
If your hands and feet sweat excessively, your doctor can prescribe a treatment called iontophoresis (Est. $675 to $975). This treatment uses water to conduct a mild electrical current through the skin's surface, blocking perspiration by thickening the outer layer of skin and turning off sweat production. The treatment must be repeated several times and then followed up with a regular maintenance program. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, a nonprofit research, education and advocacy organization, it has a high success rate. Machines can be prescribed for in-home use, but cannot be used by those who are pregnant or have pacemakers, metal implants, cardiac conditions or epilepsy.
Botox injections (prices vary) are another effective treatment for hyperhidrosis. With this treatment, multiple injections of botulinum toxin are administered at the site of heavy sweating. The toxin temporarily turns off sweat production at the injection site. Multiple injections are required which can be quite painful, especially on the palms and soles of the feet, but the International Hyperhidrosis Society notes that 81 percent of patients using Botox injections achieve more than 50 percent reduction in sweating. Follow-up injections are required every seven to 16 months to maintain dryness.
Several different surgical options are also available as last-ditch efforts to relieve the symptoms of hyperhidrosis. A local procedure to remove sweat glands may be performed, while a more intense treatment called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) permanently destroys nerve paths associated with overactive sweat glands. The latter is more common for the treatment of severely sweaty palms or a combination of sweaty palms and underarms. Compensatory sweating, however, is a common side effect that occurs in 80 to 90 percent of patients. It often occurs on the back, chest, abdomen, legs, face or buttocks and can be quite excessive, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. For this reason, physicians recommend ETS only after other treatments have failed.
MiraDry (Est. $2,800) is a relatively new type of treatment for excessive sweating, but it has proved groundbreaking for longtime sufferers of hyperhidrosis. It was first cleared by the FDA for use in January 2011. The treatment, which uses a handheld device to deliver electromagnetic energy to the sweat glands, is entirely non-invasive and was proven to be safe in three clinical studies, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. Thermolysis (the process of decomposition by heat) eliminates the sweat glands, keeping the top layers of skin cooled and protected. The sweat glands do not grow back after the procedure, and most doctors say this outpatient procedure can be completed in just two sessions. Although perspiration is necessary for the body's temperature control, the underarms only contain 2 percent of the body's sweat glands, and there is no indication that the treatment disrupts thermoregulation or leads to compensatory sweating on other parts of the body, which is common after ETS.