Hyperhidrosis: The Facts
Sweaters, You're in Good Company
Going for a run, completing a nerve-wracking interview or spending hours in the sun are all activities that will surely result in perspiration. Many people don’t think twice about when or how much they sweat. But for 7.8 million Americans (nearly 3% of the population) with hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating beyond those normal sweat-inducing activities is a very real and a very difficult thing to manage. When we look globally, more than 375 million people (5% of the world's population) suffer from excessive sweating.
Hyperhidrosis is broken down into two main types; primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. They are categorized to help both clinicians and sufferers understand the cause of their sweating. Primary focal hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that is not caused by another medical condition or medication side effects. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that is caused by another medical condition or medication side effects.
Warm, wet areas (like sweaty underarms!) are breeding grounds for bacteria and infection. This means that a hyperhidrosis patient's excessive sweating can lead to skin irritations and problems like bacterial and fungal overgrowth, infections and maceration of the skin in the affected area(s). Beyond these physical health consequences, hyperhidrosis can cause a patient's mental health to take a hit, too. Evidence shows that psychological consequences include anxiety, depression, social isolation, and increased stress--all of which are proven to decrease our quality of life.
Nearly 1 in 5 teens (17%) say they experience excessive sweating. Of that 17%, 75% say it impacts their daily life. The average age of onset for hyperhidrosis is 11 years old, but the prevalence rate is significantly higher among people ages 25-64. In other words, while one hyperhidrosis sufferer may have the condition from infancy, another may have an onset in their teenage years.
The sweating happens at different times for everyone. Some days are sweatier than others and nerve-wracking events (interviews, presentations, etc.) can make a sufferer's already excessive sweating even worse. The interesting thing is that some hyperhidrosis sufferers actually have entire days where they produce very little sweat. Of course, this is outweighed by days where a hyperhidrosis sufferer sweats so excessively that it puts OTC antiperspirant claims to shame. On days like this, the sufferer may sneak in an extra shower or two, change t-shirts multiple times, or avoid social interaction entirely.
Overactive sweat glands. It’s as simple as that. Humans (hyperhidrosis sufferers included) have 2-4 million sweat glands distributed throughout their bodies. Eccrine glands, the glands associated with hyperhidrosis, secrete an odorless and clear fluid that helps the body control its temperature by promoting heat loss via evaporation. All people's eccrine glands "turn on" when the they overheat, experience emotion like embarrassment, participate in physical activity, etc... Hyperhidrosis sufferer's sweat glands are stuck in the "on" position and do not need those stimuli to be activated.
Where we find these eccrine glands, we find hyperhidrosis. Eccrine glands are most abundant on the soles of the feet, palms, cheeks, forehead and underarms. While it is common that more than one part of the body is affected by hyperhidrosis, 71% of hyperhidrosis sufferers suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the underarms).
Be vocal, be open, be understanding. You are not alone. We understand that living with hyperhidrosis is hard. There are only so many black shirts you can buy, so many hands you can avoid shaking, and so many activities you voluntarily skip out on. Talk to your dermatologist about your condition and ask how they can help you.
Better yet, sign up for a clinical trial evaluating a new treatment for hyperhidrosis. You'll give those underarms some much deserved attention while being a part of the scientific advancement toward a better treatment for hyperhidrosis - for ALL.
Finally, if you're up for it, talk openly about your condition to your friends and family. Spread the word that excessive sweating is a real, treatable medical condition. 1 out of every 30 people have hyperhidrosis, so you will not need to look far to find someone who gets you.