Warmer weather could have some of us sweating more, but for people with hyperhidrosis, perspiration is a daily occurrence whatever the weather.
Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive sweating, which means that sufferers produce more sweat than they need in order to cool off.
Normally, we can sweat up to one litre a day, but with excessive sweaters, the body’s cooling mechanism goes into overdrive and can produce as much as four or five times what is needed to regulate their temperature.
Armpits are the prime suspects, but the soles of the feet, face and palms are also areas with a high concentration of sweat glands, causing wet patches on clothes, clammy hands and smelly feet.
Dr Auldric Ratajczak, Nuffield Health’s deputy medical director for wellbeing, explains the symptoms of the condition.
“Primary hyperhidrosis is the name given to regular excess sweating for over six months that doesn’t have a clear underlying cause,” he says.
“Sweating can be caused by other conditions, such as menopause, cancer, tuberculosis, bacterial infections, some medication, hormonal and neurological conditions, as well as having a fever.”
Six signs you have hyperhidrosis
We’ve all woken up in the night during summer feeling hot and sticky, but Dr Ratajczak says the problem can be so severe, it can cause “serious social, emotional and professional consequences”.
If any of the following are happening to you regularly, according to NHS Choices, you may have hyperhidrosis:
1. You avoid physical contact, such as shaking hands, because you feel self-conscious about your sweating.
2. You don't take part in activities such as dancing or exercise for fear they will make your sweating worse.
3. Excessive sweating is interfering with your job – for example, you have difficulty holding tools or using a computer keyboard.
4. You're having problems with normal daily activities, such as driving.
5. You're spending a significant amount of time coping with sweating – for example, frequently showering and changing your clothes.
6. You become socially withdrawn and self-conscious.
The fear of sweating
Dr Pixie McKenna, of Channel 4 programme Embarrassing Bodies, has seen her fair share of people with hyperhidrosis, but she says many sit and home and suffer in silence.
“The fear and embarrassment of being discovered can often be very stressful and cause sufferers to adopt corrective behaviours,” she says.
“Everyday life can be severely impacted with avoidance of wearing certain types of clothing, the need to apply antiperspirant several times a day, repeated body washing and also the worry about whether wetness or odour is obvious to others.”
She adds that sweating shapes people’s days, as they’re conscious of it the moment they wake up, particularly during the summer months.
“Clothing choices are a particular issue, sleeves are the order of the day for female suffers, whereas as many males will simply keep their suit jackets on all day to avoid revealing sweat patches on their shirts. On first dates, special occasions or even standing up to give a presentation, perspiration can prove the most nerve-wracking component of any activity.”
Hyperhidrosis can impact on sufferers’ confidence in relationships – and even lead to depression.
“I have seen patients who have become increasingly anxious because of their symptoms, which only make matters worse, often resulting in even more sweating. Some sufferers become so self-conscious that they experience a downward spiral and become clinically depressed.”
How to treat hyperhidrosis
“Seek help, don’t suffer in silence,” says Dr Pixie McKenna.
“Stop focusing on banishing smells and start focusing on banishing sweat with a high strength antiperspirant containing aluminium chloride. Opt for something that is long lasting and promises to protect you for hours, and ensure it is not only effective in terms of banishing sweat but that it is also skin kind.” She recommends using Perspirex Plus antiperspirant.
Dr Ratajczak says that a change of diet can also help. “Reduce stimulants such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and wear loose fitting clothes in natural fibres,” he says.
“Losing weight reduces the amount of sweat. Some drugs, such as betablockers, can be used to good effect. Botolunium toxin [botox] is extremely effective, if temporary and costly and surgery is a cure for the most resistant cases.”
When you should see your GP
If your hyperhidrosis is making you unwell, consult your doctor, says Dr Ratajczak. “If you feel unwell and have most of your sweating episodes at night, try to speak to your GP early on,” he advises.
“For other cases, it is reasonable to start with lifestyle changes and try a higher dose aluminium antiperspirant from the chemist if your skin tolerates it. If it fails, seek further advice from your GP.”