Sweat too much? Successful treatments are now available

by Ruth Nichol / 29 December, 2017

Photo/Getty Images

When Anna Jones was a teenager, her feet sweated so much she left a puddle if she sat barefoot on the wooden floor of the school gymnasium. “We had to take our shoes off to protect the floor. I was excused from school assemblies because of it.”

She also had excessive underarm sweating, which made wearing her pale-blue school uniform a challenge. “Wearing any light colour meant I ended up with massive dark patches under the arms.”

Her hands were constantly sweaty, too. “I hated shaking hands with people.”

Jones (not her real name) is one of about 5% of people who suffer from excessive sweating with no medical cause – known as primary focal hyperhidrosis. It typically affects the underarms, the soles of the feet and the palms. Some people also sweat profusely from their scalp or face.

Like most hyperhidrosis sufferers, Jones developed the condition as a young teenager. “I had this constant dripping feeling. It was horrible, uncomfortable and very embarrassing.”

At 16, she had Botox treatment to try to reduce her underarm sweating, but although Botox works well for many people with hyperhidrosis, it didn’t work for her.

During the next few years, she learnt to live with the condition. She wore baggy clothing in black or white, often with a singlet underneath to absorb the sweat. She washed her hands frequently and, while she was training as a nurse, she wore surgical gloves to contain the sweat.

Then she found out about two treatments that have transformed her life.

The first, iontophoresis, has been used to treat excessive sweating of the hands and feet since the 1940s. It involves sending mild electrical currents through water into the skin. The second treatment, miraDry, is much newer. It uses an electromagnetic energy pulse to permanently stop the sweat glands under the arms from working. It was approved as a treatment for excessive underarm sweating by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011.

Jones bought an iontophoresis machine a year ago, used it daily for two weeks, and had such a good response she now needs top-up treatment only once a month.

“Previously, I could never wear jandals or sandals, as I would literally be sliding about.”

Dermatologist Kevin McKerrow.

In February, she had miraDry treatment at the Skin Specialist Centre in Auckland, the only New Zealand dermatology practice that offers it. At $2850, it’s not cheap, but for Jones it has been worth it.

“I’ve had an 80% reduction in underarm sweating after one treatment, which I’m more than happy with. I sweat like a normal person now.”

Jones is one of more than 100 patients dermatologist Kevin McKerrow has treated with miraDry since 2013. He says a quarter of them need just a single treatment to reduce underarm sweating by 85-100%. The rest need a second treatment four months later.

Although the one-off cost is high, he says it’s cheaper in the long term than using Botox, which can cost up to $1500 a treatment and needs frequent repeats. “Botox goes on and on and on and on.”

According to the US-based International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS), Botox can also be used to treat excessive sweating of the hands and feet. However, McKerrow does not offer Botox for that purpose, saying it is painful, time-consuming and can cause side effects such as loss of muscle strength in the hands. Instead, his clinic has started recommending iontophoresis machines to treat sweaty hands and feet.

Other possible treatments for hyperhidrosis include using clinical-strength or prescription antiperspirants on the affected areas – including the hands and feet. IHhS spokesperson Angela Ballard says the antiperspirant should be applied at night so it can penetrate the pores to form a temporary plug. Biomechanical feedback then takes over to stop sweating.

This month, the society is running its first hyperhidrosis-awareness campaign to raise the profile of the condition.

“It’s not well understood or well known, even though studies show it’s rather common,” says Ballard. “People might know that they sweat a lot, but they may not realise they have a medical condition that can be treated.”

See sweathelp.org for more information.

This article was first published in the November 25, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

The power of sharing stories about anxiety and depression
90669 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Psychology

The power of sharing stories about anxiety and dep…

by Marc Wilson

People assailed by depression need to know they're not alone – and stories shared by celebrities and non-celebrities go a long way in helping.

Read more
Wynyard Quarter welcomes French patisserie La Petite Fourchette
91365 2018-05-23 15:41:53Z Auckland Eats

Wynyard Quarter welcomes French patisserie La Peti…

by Kate Richards

French cakes and tarts are the highlight at new Wynyard Quarter opening, La Petite Fourchette.

Read more
Can YouTube produce a Spotify killer?
91338 2018-05-23 12:41:02Z Technology

Can YouTube produce a Spotify killer?

by Peter Griffin

Youtube will today roll out its revamped subscription streaming service YouTube Music, upping the stakes in a market dominated by Spotify and Apple.

Read more
Otago University's attempt to silence a women's health issue was wrong - period.
91328 2018-05-23 11:51:31Z Social issues

Otago University's attempt to silence a women's he…

by Genevieve O’Halloran

Critic's controversial and crude cover wasn't going to win any design awards - but did it really warrant seizure by Otago University?

Read more
Auckland icon The French Cafe sold to top restaurateurs
91318 2018-05-23 10:28:45Z Auckland Eats

Auckland icon The French Cafe sold to top restaura…

by Kate Richards

Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright, who’ve owned The French Café for twenty years, have sold it to top restaurateurs Sid and Chand Sahrawat.

Read more
Eye off the ball: Why did Netball NZ let our winningest coach get away?
91311 2018-05-23 09:50:15Z Sport

Eye off the ball: Why did Netball NZ let our winni…

by Fiona Barber

Incredibly, Noeline Taurua – the only Kiwi coach to win the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship – didn’t even make shortlist for the new Silver Ferns coach.

Read more
Otago University destroyed copies of student magazine over period cover
91306 2018-05-23 07:08:01Z Social issues

Otago University destroyed copies of student magaz…

by Sarah Robson

Issues of Critic with a menstruating woman on the cover were removed and destroyed by university staff, something the uni now says is "regrettable".

Read more
Marijuana referendum could be held in 2019
91303 2018-05-23 07:01:11Z Social issues

Marijuana referendum could be held in 2019

by Benedict Collins

The government is debating whether to hold a referendum legalising marijuana next year, to avoid doing it at the general election in 2020.

Read more