For most of us, our bodies sweat to cool down and maintain a constant temperature, but for those affected by hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, the condition can be a detriment to self-esteem, create social isolation and keep sufferers in a prison of dark, baggy clothes to hide the perspiration.
The International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHS) views hyperhidrosis as a serious medical condition that affects about three per cent of the global population (over 200 million people). The organization focuses on research and support for people who excessively sweat, and features real stories of how hyperhidrosis damages people's lives and self-esteem, and what they can do about it.
People who sweat normally may experience the discomfort of sweat trickling down the back on a hot summer day, but imagine how debilitating hyperhidrosis could be with your entire body continuously wet and sweating, and having to interact with others.
In his testimonial on the IHS site, Paul explains his condition as "humiliating" and a "big obstacle" to dating in particular.
"I can go from having a good level of self-esteem to feeling extremely self-conscious, insecure, anxious, and depressed," he says. "Excessive sweating is something you never truly get used to. It's a constant frustration... Unless someone has dealt with it themselves, they can't really understand and that makes talking about it difficult."
Effects of Underarm Hyperhidrosis
Though the condition generally affects hands, feet and the forehead, Hyperhidrosis.ca estimates that 50 per cent of hyperhidrosis-affected people sweat excessively in their armpits, and this has specific ramifications:
1. Body Odour
When we sweat, the bacteria that sits on the surface of our skin combines with sweat to create a foul body odour smell, which is particularly pungent under the arms. Daily washing is important. Shaving or waxing under your arms can also help -- hair traps moisture and increases bacteria, so keep the underarms smooth for this reason.
2. Stained Clothing
Sweat cools the body as it evaporates, and it also helps to clear waste products like ammonia and urea. Urea is a nitrogen-present substance that is normally cleared from the blood by the kidneys and into urine. Urea makes urine and underarm sweat yellow, which leaves difficult-to-remove perspiration stains on your clothes.
Besides carrying an odour and wearing sweat-stained clothes, the emotional difficulties of hyperhidrosis are clear in Francis' story from the IHS site:
"I had seriously sweaty armpits. I could never wear cute tank tops or fun colors. I always wore bulky black clothes and jackets. I had super clammy hands and totally sweaty feet, too -- I'm talking dripping sweat.
"By the time I was 13, I gave up drawing because I was always smearing the paper. At 15, I cried because I couldn't go to a sleepover party because then people would find out about my problem. I stopped hanging out with my friends."
Eventually, Francis' mother took her to a dermatologist and her sweating subsided with the help of Iontophoresis, a sweating treatment that involves a mild electrical current to the feet and hands, and with Botox for her underarms.
Options for Controlling Underarm Hyperhidrosis
The wetness, odour, ruined clothing and embarrassment from excessive sweating under the armpits can seriously alter a person's life, but there is an effective long-term solution that can keep sweating at bay for up to nine months and beyond.
Dr. Cory Torgerson, a Toronto MD and plastic surgeon, understands the psychological, emotional and social repercussions of excess sweating, and uses Botox injections with his hyperhidrosis patients "to reduce the sweat gland activity by blocking the nerves that control that gland."
Botox is better known as an injectable cosmetic for the face, but its results on hyperhidrosis is an enormous relief to many perspiration sufferers. Dr. Torgerson reports an "extremely high" success rate for Botox on hyperhidrosis with over 80 per cent recipient satisfaction.
"Participants notice a reduction in sweating for a period of three to nine months. No major side effects have been reported, and if there is a downside, it would be that repetitive injections are required."
Indeed, the IHS is very supportive of Botox treatment for hyperhidrosis for underarms and other localized areas of the body. To excess sweating under the arms, "Botox has been shown to result in an 82 to 87 per cent decrease in sweating. Results start to be noticeable approximately two to four days after treatment with the full effects usually noted within two weeks."
Keeping dry and confident may seem out of reach to hyperhidrosis sufferers, but help is available in many different forms. Look into it; a comfortable body and a confident self is in your future.
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