Hyperhidrosis, or hyper perspiration, is excessive sweating beyond what is needed to regulate body temperature. The areas generally affected by the condition are the armpits, hands, feet and face, but hyperhidrosis may also spread to the entire body. Learn more about the condition, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.
Hyperhidrosis is excess production of sweat. It may be either intermittent or permanent and is exacerbated in times of stress.
There are different types of hyperhidrosis:
- Generalized hyperhidrosis: often indicates chronic infection, a metabolic disorder, or lymphoma. This type of hyperhidrosis causes excess sweating all over the body.
- Primary localized hyperhidrosis: this form is idiopathic, or in other words, it has no apparent cause. It lasts for more than six months and is generally limited to the armpits (also called axillary hyperhidrosis), the soles of the feet, the groin and the head.
- Secondary or regional localized hyperhidrosis: is often caused by a neurological problem and affects one half of the body or one limb.
Symptoms and impact on health
The symptoms may be more or less serious, and are classed into four severity levels1:
- Level I: My sweating is never noticeable and never interferes with my daily activities.
- Level 2: My sweating is tolerable but sometimes interferes with my daily activities.
- Level 3: My sweating is barely tolerable and frequently interferes with my daily activities.
- Level 4: My sweating is intolerable and always interferes with my daily activities.
In the most severe cases, hyperhidrosis causes:
- redness (erythema);
- chills in the body and extremities (caused by evaporation);
- social embarrassment because of the excess sweating, which in turn can trigger anxiety, tachycardia, and vascularization (abnormal or excessive formation of blood vessels).
Stress, intense emotions, heat, fever, some foods and drinks (such as coffee, chocolate and spices) tend to increase the symptoms of hyperhidrosis.
Although the root cause of the condition often remains unknown, the condition may be due to hyper functioning of the nerve reflexes responsible for triggering sweating. Axillary or palmar (sweating of the hands or palms) hyperhidrosis usually presents before age 25, and has no apparent cause. Nonetheless, genetic factors are significant, as 42% of cases have a family history of the condition.
Hyperhidrosis is a fairly rare condition. It affects about 3% of the population in the United States and in Germany, compared with only 1% in the United Kingdom. The number of sufferers in France is not known.
Onset is generally during puberty or in young adulthood (especially armpit hyperhidrosis). The condition peaks at between 30 and 40, and then gradually tapers off with age. There are a few cases of palmar hyperhidrosis in children also.
1 HDSS: Hyperhidrosis Disease Severity Scale