Is There A Cure For Axillary Hyperhidrosis? The Complete List of Treatments
Whether you're running to a meeting or sitting in a cubicle, sweat happens. In fact, nearly 3% of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Of this segment, most experience profuse underarm sweating, known as axillary hyperhidrosis. If you live with this condition, you know that preventing underarm sweat stains is a daily battle. At times you may even wonder: Is there a cure for hyperhidrosis or will I have to live like this forever?
At Thompson Tee, we want to help improve your quality of life. That’s why in this guide, we explain everything you need to know about axillary hyperhidrosis and how to treat it.
What Is Axillary Hyperhidrosis?
Axillary hyperhidrosis occurs when people have a regular number of sweat glands in their underarms but a higher sympathetic response. These overactive sweat glands produce more sweat than is required for temperature control, resulting in visible sweat marks that cause serious psychological, emotional and social damage.
Overactive sweat glands can occur in more places than the underarms — such as the hands, feet, head/face, groin and torso.
Axillary Hyperhidrosis Causes
What causes hyperhidrosis? It depends. Within the hyperhidrosis umbrella are two types of excessive sweating: primary and secondary hyperhidrosis. The cause of your hyperhidrosis depends on the type you have.
- Primary hyperhidrosis is excess sweat that occurs in one area. This type of hyperhidrosis is often inherited, meaning a family member has likely suffered from the disorder. In these cases, over sweating can begin during childhood. Axillary hyperhidrosis falls under primary hyperhidrosis because people experience heavy sweating primarily in the underarm area.
- Secondary hyperhidrosis refers to generalized sweating — meaning perspiration occurs across the body and not one area. Medications or certain behaviors (like alcoholism, taking food supplements, obesity, etc.,) activate the disorder, typically in adulthood.
Axillary Hyperhidrosis Symptoms
Axillary hyperhidrosis symptoms vary, but the general rule of thumb is if sweating interferes with your daily routine, you most likely have a diagnosable condition.
Here are some hyperhidrosis symptoms that indicate it’s time to seek treatment:
- You think about sweating every day
- You sweat through your clothes frequently
- You plan your day around sweat management
- You keep an extra change of clothes with you at all times in case you sweat
- You purposely avoid social situations because of sweat
- Excessive sweating has ruined an important meeting, interview or presentation at work
- Regular undershirts don’t stop underarm sweat from bleeding onto your clothes
- You sweat even when you don’t physically exert yourself
- You sweat when it’s cold out
- You avoid wearing colorful garments because they show sweat
- You don’t buy nice clothes because you know your sweat will ruin them
- You’re depressed because of excessive sweating
- Your sweat seems uncontrollable
Is There A Cure For Hyperhidrosis?
Yes. There are steps you can take to reduce and, in some cases, eliminate excessive underarm sweating. However, not all treatments are created equal — what works for one person might not work for you.
There is a whole spectrum of cures for axillary hyperhidrosis from quick fixes to sustainable solutions. We recommend exhausting minimally invasive solutions first before breaking out the big guns.
To help you seek treatment in the healthiest way possible, we’ve provided a complete list of axillary hyperhidrosis treatments from least invasive to most.
Axillary Hyperhidrosis Treatments
Whether you suffer from the clinical definition of hyperhidrosis or want to feel dry all day, consider these axillary hyperhidrosis treatments:
You probably use antiperspirants and deodorants interchangeably. But deodorants don’t contain any anti-sweat ingredients; they combat the smell associated with underarm sweating. Most over-the-counter antiperspirants are also deodorants, but deodorants are not antiperspirants (unless clearly labeled as both).
Because of their sweat-blocking abilities, antiperspirants are the first line of defense against underarm sweating. Most over-the-counter, clinical-strength antiperspirants contain aluminum salts that slow sweat from leaving the sweat glands. Some prescription antiperspirants also contain high levels of aluminum chloride, which is even more effective at fighting wetness.
Antiperspirants work best when applied at night and in the morning, but this hyperhidrosis treatment is not for everyone. The most common side effects include skin irritation, but newer antiperspirants contain aluminum zirconium compounds, which are less likely to cause skin sensitivity.
Is your clinical antiperspirant giving out midday? Find out what to do when extra-strength antiperspirant doesn’t work by checking out our blog post, “What To Do When Clinical Antiperspirant Doesn’t Work For You.”
Armed with the patented Hydro-Shield technology, the Thompson Tee offers a safe yet effective axillary hyperhidrosis treatment. This undershirt is guaranteed to stop underarm sweat from seeping through to your outerwear.
How does this sweat proof undershirt work? Unlike regular undershirts, the Thompson Tee’s underarm shields absorb and release sweat as a vapor.
All Thompson Tees are made in the U.S. and backed by an unconditional 30-day guarantee.
3. Oral Hyperhidrosis Medication
Anticholinergics are the most commonly used hyperhidrosis medication.These hyperhidrosis drugs were designed to treat gastrointestinal disorders and work by drying out the body. Scientists have not studied anticholinergics in clinical trials for hyperhidrosis, so their use is “off-label.” The FDA bases their approval on studies involving other medical conditions.
Because anticholinergic drugs decrease sweating over the entire body, Dee Anna Glaser, MD, president and founding board member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, cautions her patients saying, “When taking anticholinergics, the body may have more difficulty keeping itself cool with the sweat mechanism ‘turned off.’ Therefore, athletes, people who participate in sports, people who work outdoors and anyone who may potentially cause themselves injury by becoming overheated must use extra care when considering these treatments.”
Patients taking hyperhidrosis medications must watch their water intake, temperature, exertion and symptoms of overheating (dizziness, headache, nausea and muscle cramping). Oral anticholinergic drugs can stop the activation of sweat glands, but side effects include blurred vision, heart palpitations and urinary problems.
Beta-blockers (propranolol) and benzodiazepines are two other oral hyperhidrosis medications. These drugs work by “blocking” the physical effects of anxiety.
Acting on the central nervous system, these medications work best for patients who experience situational hyperhidrosis like weddings, job interviews and public speaking. Certain side effects limit their long-term use. Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming, and many patients cannot tolerate the sedative effects these medications cause.
4. Botox Injections
Botox is another relatively simple hyperhidrosis treatment that research shows is 80 to 90 percent effective. Botox is a cosmetic drug that's injected in the skin to treat wrinkles and fine lines. Botox injections also block the secretion of the chemical that triggers sweat glands. Injections run around $500 per armpit per treatment and can last anywhere from three to 12 months.
Per the manufacturer of Botox, “It is not known whether BOTOX® is safe or effective for severe sweating anywhere other than your armpits.”
Botox is made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum — the same toxin that causes the life-threatening food poisoning called botulism.Be sure to check with your doctor if you're pregnant, plan to become pregnant, breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed (it's unknown whether Botox can harm your unborn baby or pass into breast milk).
As with any drug, it’s important to understand the risks. For more information, check out our blog post, “Botox for Hyperhidrosis: Is It Right For You?”
During iontophoresis, a medical device is used to pass a mild electrical current through water (usually with small shallow pans) and the skin's surface.
Some patients have success with this method. However, doctors don't typically recommend iontophoresis for axillary hyperhidrosis patients because the skin in the armpits is more susceptible to irritation. The shape of underarms also makes iontophoresis challenging to execute.
There are no significant or severe side effects of this hyperhidrosis treatment, and the results vary. Unlike Botox, you can experience long-term benefits if you keep up with the maintenance schedule (typically weekly) your doctor recommends.
To find out everything you need to know about iontophoresis, check out our blog post, “What Is Iontophoresis? Understanding Electrotherapy for Sweat.”
This new noninvasive hyperhidrosis treatment uses microwave technology to destroy sweat glands in the underarms and suppress sweating. (This procedure does require local anesthetic in each armpit). Results vary, so multiple treatments are recommended. Treatments average around $3,000.
Common side effects include underarm swelling, redness and tenderness lasting for several days. Numbness and tingling can occur in the upper arm or armpit and may last for about five weeks. Click here to read real-life stories of folks who unfortunately found themselves on the wrong side of the risk factors.
7. Lasers For Hyperhidrosis
Laser treatments for hyperhidrosis target and destroy sweat glands with heat.
During treatment, the doctor first makes tiny incisions in your armpits. These allow the laser to pass underneath your skin. Then he or she will begin heating your sweat glands with the laser. Most patients experience a reduction in sweat after one laser treatment, but it may take three to four sessions to see a significant difference.
Laser treatment for hyperhidrosis takes approximately 30 minutes and costs about $3,000 per session. Typically, patients see up to a 78 percent reduction in sweat. Side effects include bruising, numbness and swelling.
8. Hyperhidrosis Surgery
After exhausting all other options, your physician might consider surgery to treat hyperhidrosis. It's often hard to find a surgeon experienced in sweat-related operations, so be sure to do your homework and test their knowledge.
Most patients undergoing hyperhidrosis surgery have to pay for the procedure out of pocket. (Health insurance providers do not typically cover local operations as a treatment for hyperhidrosis.) Underarm surgery techniques include:
- Excision (cutting out sweat glands – NO LONGER RECOMMENDED)
- Curettage (scrapping out the sweat glands)
- Liposuction (removing sweat glands via suction)
- ETS (endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy: cutting/destroying the nerve paths of overactive sweat glands – NO LONGER RECOMMENDED).
While these treatments can be effective, they are the most invasive and expensive option, require the use of local anesthesia and can leave irreversible effects.
ETS Surgery Risk Factors
It's important to note that excision (the complete removal of underarm tissue containing sweat glands) is NO LONGER RECOMMENDED. This approach can leave massive scarring that severely limits your range of motion. Most physicians also DO NOT recommend ETS (endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy) surgery because of the severe and irreversible side effects.
- Results vary: Sweat glands are too small to be seen, even with surgical instruments, so even experienced dermatologists are going in "blind." It is difficult for them to know how many sweat glands are being removed or damaged, so the results vary considerably. According to Dr. Glaser, "...dermatologists may use a number of different techniques and say that they can get consistent, good results, but these aren't procedures that are commonly performed and it's difficult to predict results...Sweat glands are not like tumors or lesions that we can see and remove easily. It's not going to work for everyone."
- Serious side effects can occur: As with any surgery, there are potential complications such as infection. Patients can also experience bruising, swelling, loss of sensation in the underarms and scarring depending on the size and number of incisions.
Which axillary hyperhidrosis treatments have you found to be most effective? Let us know in the comments below.
*PLEASE NOTE: As with any medical-related issue, it's best to seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner. Do not use the information provided for any diagnostic purposes or as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.