Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessive sweating. Although it is not dangerous, it can affect a person’s confidence level and inconvenience normal activities. Treatments available at the University of Michigan often lead to very quick and effective correction of hyperhidrosis. At the University of Michigan, patients with hyperhidrosis are cared for by specialists from thoracic (chest) surgery, dermatology and neurology who create a treatment plan that fits individual needs.

Hyperhidrosis Causes

When your body temperature is high, nerves in your body will trigger your sweat glands to help cool you down. You may also sweat when nervous. With hyperhidrosis, these same nerves are triggering sweat even when it is not needed. Many patients will experience sweating in the hands, armpits, and feet, and sometimes in the groin, buttocks or other areas of the body.

Hyperhidrosis often appears during puberty. There are two types of hyperhidrosis: primary hyperhidrosis and secondary hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis has no known cause and is not related to any other medical condition. Meanwhile, secondary hyperhidrosis may be caused by other factors such as medications, diabetes or abnormal blood sugar level, hyperthyroidism, heart problems, or other diseases.

Hyperhidrosis Treatment

Some patients may respond well to a non-surgical therapy. Most often, one or more of these options are tried before surgery is recommended. Your physician will work with you to discuss all potential therapies and identify the most effective care plans.

  • Topical lotion that is applied to symptomatic areas multiple times a day to reduce sweating may be recommended. Its effectiveness varies greatly and patients sometimes experience side effects of like cracked or chapped skin.
  • Oral medication that stops activity in the nerves responsible for starting sweating may be recommended. These medicines, anti-cholinergic drugs, may also cause side effects including dry mouth and eyes and digestive issues.
  • Iontophoresis is an ionic transfer technique given by dermatologists that sends low levels of electric current to symptomatic areas. To start, patients will receive an application a day for several weeks. If it is effective, they will have less frequent maintenance treatments.
  • Thoracoscopic sympathectomy, allows a thoracic surgeon to directly target the nerves that lead to the sweating symptoms of hyperhidrosis when it effects the hands and armpits. Our thoracic surgeons use the latest minimally invasive or robotic techniques . Most patients will notice immediate results. Our thoracic surgeons have performed more than 200 procedures with a high success rate. As will be discussed in your clinic visit, while the surgery can be effective for sweating in the hands and armpits, it is important to understand some potential side effects before considering surgery.   Compensatory hyperhidrosis, or sweating in other areas of the body such as the abdomen or back, can occur in up to 30-50% of patients.  There is also a 1% risk of Horner’s Syndrome, which can result in a slightly drooping eyelid and small pupil on one side of the face. View “Preparing for your Bilateral Thoracoscopic Sympathectomy” PDF that outlines pre and post-operative information for this procedure. Watch as Dr. Rishindra Reddy describes the surgery in our Sympathectomy video.

Most patients will need a referral to be treated for hyperhidrosis. You can speak with your primary care physician or call one of our clinics listed under the Locations tab in the right sidebar for assistance.