Why Do We Sweat?
The most important reason that humans sweat is to cool the body off in an attempt to maintain a normal body temperature. When the sweat glands release sweat, the moisture on the skin evaporates into the air around us, creating a cooling effect. This is useful when we become overheated while exercising, during hot weather, or during other circumstances. The perspiration from our bodies is composed almost entirely of water.
Humans may also sweat as a response to emotions. The eccrine sweat glands are activated by the sympathetic nervous system and respond by releasing perspiration. We also sweat when we sleep because we may become overheated in our environment, or as the result of some underlying medical issue. Women affected by menopause and shifting levels of estrogen may sweat dozens of times during the day and some are more affected at night.
Not Knowing Leads to Assumptions
Even though there is a medical term for excessive sweating (severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis, or simply hyperhidrosis), it doesn’t make the condition any less embarrassing for those who suffer from it. Many people are unaware of the condition and may interpret excessive sweating in another person as anxiety. Others may assume a person has hygiene issues and has not attempted to control his or her underarm perspiration, or that they are in poor health because the body cannot cool itself effectively.
The Effects of Social Pressure
Hyperhidrosis can create awkward social situations, sometimes causing social anxiety, and lead to poor hygiene from excessive sweat. The excess sweat in the armpit region can even ruin a person’s clothing. While heavy sweating during puberty often subsides following the teenage years, the problems associated with hyperhidrosis can become amplified over time. This often leaves sufferers uncomfortable publicly and personally due to constant underarm wetness.
Physical Issues Associated with Hyperhidrosis
Excessive sweating can easily lead to dehydration. Those with hyperhidrosis release sweat at a greater rate and more frequently than non-sufferers. Some doctors believe that they can release between two to eight times the amount of normal sweat in one day. With around 3 million sweat glands throughout the body, the excess moisture can affect multiple regions of the body, though the underarms may be the most visible.
Persistent wetness can also lead to yeast infections. Moisture coupled with the warmth of the skin provides the perfect breeding ground for fungal infections to occur. Unless the hyperhidrosis is treated, the infections may be recurring, creating pain and discomfort in areas on the body.
As previously mentioned, the toll of excessive sweating is often not just physical, but psychological as well. People may feel uncomfortable in social situations, which only exacerbates the sweating. Others have mentioned feeling anxious or depressed due to the condition.
Treatment for Excessive Underarm Sweat
While sweating is a necessary bodily function, excessive sweating is often more harmful than good. Doctors have developed treatment plans to better manage this out-of-control function. Perhaps the best way to combat constantly wet underarms is through laser surgery. The laser burns and vaporizes the glands from the skin, removing them completely. This sounds painful, but patients typically experience minimal discomfort following the treatment. While it may take some time to enjoy the full benefits of the procedure (up to six months), the long term effects are well worth it.
Other Sweat-Minimizing Treatments
The first course of action in those who experience seemingly nonstop perspiration is to use an antiperspirant deodorant. Some over-the-counter deodorants are now made at the clinical strength level, though prescription deodorants are also available. When patients resort to more permanent fixes, any strength of deodorant is typically insufficient.
Another popular way to treat excess sweat of the underarms or feet is through the use of Botox injections. The injections must be repeated every three to six months, but studies have shown they are safe to undergo for at least a two-year period. More studies are in the works to follow up with patients who undergo a series of injections for a longer duration of time.