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Hyperhidrosis Surgery Side Effects You Should Prepare For

I underwent endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) surgery to solve my sweating problem nearly 20 years ago. But I still live with the side effects of hyperhidrosis surgery today.

[ For more info on what ETS surgery is, check out my previous blog post here.]

In this video and blog post, I'll share the hyperhidrosis surgery side effects doctors don’t tell you about.

Diagnosing the Problem: Cranial Hyperhidrosis

I've dealt with  cranial hyperhidrosis (excessive head sweating) since my teens. But it took years to finally pinpoint the issue.

Throughout my teens, excessive sweating severely affected my self-confidence. But I learned to live with it. At the same time, I tried to work out and stay healthy — even though this didn't help my sweating situation.

In my 20s, doctors misdiagnosed my excessive sweating as a massive anxiety disorder. I was prescribed every anxiety pill on the market — Prozac, Xanax, you name it. Nothing worked — because anxiety wasn't the issue.

When I finally came across a doctor who diagnosed me with hyperhidrosis, a light bulb went off. And when he said he could cure my excessive sweating with hyperhidrosis surgery, I was sold.

Unexpected Hyperhidrosis Surgery Side Effects

Before the surgery, the doctor only mentioned one hyperhidrosis surgery side effect, which was very rare: Horner’s syndrome.

This condition causes your eyelids to droop and shrinks your pupils permanently.

I could live with that, I thought.

But here's what the doctor didn't mention:

Phantom sweat

Post-surgery, I often felt like I was sweating heavily, but nothing was there. Although the sweat wasn't real, phantom sweating was still a concerning and strange experience.

Compensatory sweating

Sure, hyperhidrosis surgery might relieve me of head sweat, but he didn't say the sweating issue would transfer to another part of my body. Enter compensatory sweating — where your body compensates for not sweating in the area treated with ETS by sweating excessively from other areas.

The volume of sweat doesn't change with surgery; only where you perspire from.

About a week after surgery, I noticed little beads of sweat on my chest.  The doctor shrugged it off, saying the sweat was probably due to the summer heat.

By the end of summer, the beads of sweat turned into patches — and sometimes bands around my torso. I went through multiple undershirts every day. At first, I didn’t want to think ETS caused this new problem. I was so happy not to sweat from my head, so I ignored the problem.

I finally insisted something wasn't right. I never sweated so much around my chest and torso before. It was then my doctor mentioned compensatory sweating.

As it turns out,  compensatory sweating is the most common side effect of ETS.  There was hardly any information about hyperhidrosis surgery side effects out there. I was frustrated and concerned about what to do next.

Corrective Sweating Medications That Made Everything Worse

After diagnosing me with compensatory sweating, the doctor started rolling out prescription medications one after another.

Here are just a few I tried:

Ditropan XL

This oral medication for hyperhidrosis was actually created for people with overactive bladders. Because the drug dries up your body, doctors now prescribe it for hyperhidrosis.

The side effects of Ditropan XL took a major toll on my work and personal life. I always had dry mouth and drank water constantly. I overheated a few times to the point where I saw spots and nearly fainted.


Once I gave up Ditropan, the doctor prescribed me Drysol, the monster of all hyperhidrosis medications. Every night before bed, I had to massage a dosage of aluminum chloride all over my torso, Saran wrap myself into a human burrito and try to sleep.

Aside from being highly uncomfortable, aluminum chloride smells like metal. Like other aluminum products, it's also been linked to breast cancer.

When you wake up the next morning, you have to unwrap yourself and rub baking soda on your body to neutralize the drug so it won’t cause harm.

I gave this a chance until night two — when I woke up with a rash across my body. I couldn’t believe one simple surgery turned out to be such a nightmare.

Hyperhidrosis Surgery: The Bottom Line

The bottom line: the hyperhidrosis surgery side effects were far worse than my initial sweating condition. To this day, going under the knife was one of the worst decisions I've ever made.

Even though the surgery stopped my cranial sweating, it made me sweat even worse in other areas, which required harmful medications to treat.

I hope sharing my post-surgery experience has helped you understand just how much of a hassle hyperhidrosis surgery can be. If you missed my first video, you can view it  here.

In the next video, I'll discuss the costs of ETS surgery.