Hyperhidrosis – An Overview | MyHyperhidrosisTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyHyperhidrosisTeam
Powered By

Hyperhidrosis – An Overview

Written by Kelly Crumrin
Updated on February 2, 2020

Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition that causes excessive sweating. Everyone sweats – sweating is one way we regulate our body temperature. However, people with hyperhidrosis sweat far more than is normal. Hyperhidrosis can cause people to drip with sweat even when they are not exercising or overheated.

What Is Hyperhidrosis?

In people with hyperhidrosis, the nerves responsible for triggering the sweat glands are overactive. There are two types of hyperhidrosis. In primary focal hyperhidrosis, there is no underlying cause for the condition, and sweating tends to occur in specific areas – especially the underarms, hands and feet, face or head. In secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, sweating is caused by another health condition or a medication, and sweating tends to occur over larger areas of the body.

Read more about the types and causes of hyperhidrosis.

The History of Hyperhidrosis

Ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen were uncertain about the origin of sweat. Did it emerge from tiny openings in the skin, or condense like water vapor on the outside of a cold drink on a hot day? Early physicians were also aware that water evaporated from the skin – a phenomenon they referred to as "insensible perspiration" – but were unsure about the relationship of these invisible vapors to liquid sweat that appeared on the skin. Hidros is the Greek word for sweat, while hyper comes from the Greek for "over" or "beyond." Hence, the word hyperhidrosis means "excessive sweating."

In the 17th century, Italian doctor Sanctorius performed a science experiment that proved he lost tiny amounts of weight through perspiration over many hours. Later that century, Italian anatomist Marcello Malpighi identified the source of sweat as tiny openings – pores – in the skin.

In 1833, Czech anatomist Jan Evangelista Purkinjè identified the existence of sweat glands. Almost a century later, German scientist Paul Schiefferdecker discovered the two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are widespread over the body, and they secrete water and salt. Apocrine glands are focused in areas of thick hair growth, and they secrete a milky fluid in response to stress.

The first antiperspirant was marketed in 1903. Antiperspirants did not become popular for many years due to cultural reluctance to discuss issues involving bodily fluids. However, doctors were aware of hyperhidrosis and actively trying new treatments to relieve excessive sweating.

The first sympathectomy (surgery to cut the sympathetic nerves responsible for stimulating sweating) for hyperhidrosis was attempted in 1919 by French physician Anastas Kotzareff. American neurosurgeon Alfred Adson successfully treated a patient with hyperhidrosis of the hands using cervical sympathectomy in 1935. Over the decades, thoracoscopic sympathectomy underwent several improvements, including the advent of less invasive endoscopic procedures using small incisions and tiny cameras.

The use of anticholinergic drugs to treat hyperhidrosis began in the 1950s. Anticholinergics such as Glycopyrrolate and Oxybutynin are believed to work by blocking chemical messengers that trigger the sweat glands to produce sweat.

In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Botox (OnabotulinumtoxinA) injections for the treatment of hyperhidrosis of the underarms. In 2015, the FDA approved miraDry, a procedure that utilizes microwave technology, to reduce hyperhidrosis of the underarms.

How Common Is Hyperhidrosis?

In the United States, between 3 and 5 percent of the population – around 1 to 1.5 million people – have hyperhidrosis. It is likely that many more people have hyperhidrosis than have been diagnosed. People of any age can develop hyperhidrosis, but symptoms most commonly begin in childhood or adolescence.

Condition Guide

Updated on February 2, 2020
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

Recent Articles

There are now more treatments for hyperhidrosis than ever before. Hyperhidrosis treatments includ...

Hyperhidrosis Treatments

There are now more treatments for hyperhidrosis than ever before. Hyperhidrosis treatments includ...
MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...

Crisis Resources

MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...
Welcome to MyHyperhidrosisTeam — the place to connect with others living with hyperhidrosis. Thi...

Getting Started on MyHyperhidrosisTeam (VIDEO)

Welcome to MyHyperhidrosisTeam — the place to connect with others living with hyperhidrosis. Thi...
This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which gives you more s...

Self-Kindness When Struggling: 6-Minute Guided Meditation

This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which gives you more s...
If you’re living with hyperhidrosis, you’re already aware of the impact that excessive sweating c...

Hyperhidrosis Awareness: How To Get Involved

If you’re living with hyperhidrosis, you’re already aware of the impact that excessive sweating c...
To determine how you can reduce your medical expenses, MyHyperhidrosisTeam sat down with Susan N...

How To Reduce Medical Bills: Top Financial Expert Shares 10 Tips

To determine how you can reduce your medical expenses, MyHyperhidrosisTeam sat down with Susan N...
MyHyperhidrosisTeam My hyperhidrosis Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close
MyHyperhidrosisTeam
Add to your home screen
MyHyperhidrosisTeam Tap below and then 'Add to Home Screen'