Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)

Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which a person experiences excessive sweating in their hands (palmar hyperhidrosis), underarms (axillary, or feet (plantar). It can also occur in the face, with or without facial blushing.

Everyone sweats more when they get nervous or excited or when they exercise, but people with hyperhidrosis perspire excessively, often for no apparent reason. This can happen when the sympathetic nervous system – which controls involuntary responses such as sweating, blushing, and salivation – fails to regulate sweating in these body areas. 

People with hyperhidrosis often experience sweating so severe that it becomes a source of embarrassment, making them reluctant to shake hands with others. It also can interfere with everyday activities such as writing, driving, taking tests, making presentations, or even holding or grasping objects.

Hyperhidrosis severity varies from person to person, but in most cases the sweating proves problematic both socially and professionally. The prevalence of hyperhidrosis is not well-documented, but it is estimated to affect up to 3 percent of the U.S. population, with a third of these people saying that the condition interferes with their daily lives. People with hyperhidrosis may even know of a family member who also has symptoms.

At the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), treatment for hyperhidrosis starts with an evaluation by a dermatologist and primary care physician for workup to determine the cause of excessive sweating. Once a patient has been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis, non-surgical treatments such as topical and oral medications are tried first. If these approaches do not work – or if patients desire a permanent solution – a thoracic surgeon can offer a minimally invasive surgery called a sympathectomy that may be able to end their excessive sweating for good.

UMMC was one of the first hospitals in the nation to offer thoracoscopic sympathectomy, more commonly known as endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy or ETS, as a treatment for hyperhidrosis. UMMC’s faculty surgeons have taught thoracoscopic surgical techniques to other surgeons worldwide, and patients from other states have sought us out for our high level of expertise with surgically treating hyperhidrosis.

To make an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 410-328-6366.