Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which a person experiences excessive sweating in their hands (palmar hyperhidrosis), underarms (axillary), face and/or feet (plantar). Everyone perspires more when they get nervous or excited or when they exercise, but people with hyperhidrosis perspire excessively, often for no apparent reason.
The sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary responses such as sweating, blushing, and salivation, fails to regulate sweating in these body areas in people with hyperhidrosis. Consequently, these individuals often experience sweating so severe that it becomes a source of embarrassment, making them reluctant to shake or touch hands. It also can interfere with everyday activities such as writing, driving, taking tests, making presentations or even holding or grasping objects.
The severity of the condition 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 one percent of the U.S. population. People with hyperhidrosis may even know of a family member with symptoms as well.
The most common non-surgical treatments for this condition include:
While these treatments can help many people with hyperhidrosis, they do not work for everyone and their effectiveness can even decrease over time. Moreover, they often don't provide a permanent solution to the problem. Consequently, many people with hyperhidrosis are now considering the minimally invasive surgical treatment known as thoracoscopic sympathectomy, sometimes called endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy (ETS).