Iontophoresis is a procedure used to treat some types of hyperhidrosis, especially palmoplantar (hands and feet) hyperhidrosis. Iontophoresis involves the use of a medical device to conduct a mild electrical current through water.
What does it involve?
Iontophoresis has been in medical usage for more than 200 years. During iontophoresis, hands and feet are submerged in shallow containers of water, or specialized pads may be applied to other parts of the body. An iontophoresis device generates a mild electrical current through the water, causing ionized particles to penetrate the skin. Iontophoresis treatment produces a mild tingling sensation.
Iontophoresis may be effective in reducing sweating on its own. Medications including Botox or anticholinergics such as Glycopyrrolate may also be added to the water. Iontophoresis is considered “an injection without a needle,” since it allows medication to be forced directly into the sweat glands.
Tap water may be sufficient to conduct the current, but “softer” water lacking minerals and electrolytes may require the addition of a teaspoon of baking soda.
To achieve effectiveness, iontophoresis generally needs to be performed three times a week for 15 to 40 minutes each time. Once sweating is reduced, one treatment per week is usually sufficient to maintain improvement.
Iontophoresis can be performed easily at home after brief training. A wide range of iontophoresis devices are available for sale or rent. Since hyperhidrosis often runs in families, multiple people may easily share a device.
One clinical study on the use of iontophoresis to treat palmoplantar sweating found that 91 percent of participants achieved dramatically decreased sweating after treatment. In another study, palmoplantar sweating was reduced by 81 percent after iontophoresis.
Some people may find the tingling sensation produced by iontophoresis unpleasant.
Iontophoresis may cause unwanted skin dryness.
The effects of iontophoresis are not permanent. Maintenance treatments are necessary to maintain effectiveness.
Iontophoresis may cause temporary skin irritation. Cover any cuts, scratches, or other breaks in the skin with a thin film of petroleum jelly before iontophoresis to avoid irritating them.
Iontophoresis devices can be expensive.
Iontophoresis may not be appropriate for pregnant women, those with epilepsy or heart conditions, or people with pacemakers or other types of medical implants.
Health insurance may not cover the cost of iontophoresis treatments or devices.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Iontophoresis – International Hyperhidrosis Society
Iontophoresis – DermNet New Zealand