In our modern society, sweating is not an accepted aesthetic or hygienic norm but perspiration is a natural phenomenon. However, excessive sweating is very socially restricting and can become a source of insecurity, therefore cosmetic medicine offers some treatments.
Excessive sweating: definition
It is difficult to clearly define the difference between natural sweat levels and excessive sweating.
Sweating is part of the body’s natural processes. The sweat glands produce a transparent, aqueous liquid to regulate the temperature of the body, in particularly to cool it down so that it remains at 37°C. Perspiration occurs in the armpits and on the scalp and back.
Sweating is caused by many different factors: sport or physical activity, ambient heat and stress.
Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating means too much sweat is produced. Any perspiration that goes beyond what is necessary or is uncontrollable and inconvenient is considered ‘excessive’. Hyperhidrosis affects all the areas that sweat, particularly the hands and feet.
Excessive sweating: the causes
The causes of hyperhidrosis are linked to overactive sweat glands. The hypothalamus, the nucleus of our brain sends all the stimuli necessary for sweating. If the body temperature increases, the hypothalamus stimulates the sweat glands located in the dermis, causing the arteries to dilate and produce sweat on the surface of the skin.
In cases of excessive sweating, the sweat glands are no longer regulated and produce an excess of watery liquid after physical activity, extreme heat or significant stress.
This physiological abnormality poses no health risks but can be a significant source of insecurity.
Excessive sweating: the treatments
In order to treat excessive sweating, you need to consult a specialist.
Firstly, it is possible to tackle hyperhidrosis with treatments you apply locally. These products are antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride. They are applied like a deoderant mainly to the armpits, meaning that aluminium chloride is deposited on the sweat ducts and limits the flow of sweat to the skin's surface.
It is also possible to treat excessive sweating using electrodes. Lontophoresis aims to reduce perspiration, particularly on the hands and feet by immersing them in water tanks in which a low electrical current is diffused.
Other possible treatments include botulinum toxin (Botox) injections in the armpits, face, hands or feet to limit the amount of sweat being released. Botulinum toxin prevents the sweat glands from being stimulated. This method is used in severe cases of hyperhidrosis.
Finally, it is possible to treat excessive sweating with surgery. This involves removing the sympathetic glands using an endoscope to break the nerve endings that supply the sweat glands. The glands then produce less sweat because they are receiving less input. In the most severe cases, it is possible to remove part of the sweat gland.