What is Iontophoresis? Understanding Electrotherapy for Sweat
If you have hyperhidrosis, you’ve probably considered many options and medical treatments to curb your sweating. Iontophoresis is one possible option for people with certain types of hyperhidrosis. But before you undergo any medical procedures, it’s best to understand what you’re getting yourself into.
Here’s everything you need to know about iontophoresis, how it works and what to expect from the procedure.
- What is iontophoresis?
- How does iontophoresis help excessive sweating?
- Does iontophoresis really work?
- What does iontophoresis feel like?
- Does iontophoresis cure hyperhidrosis?
- What body parts does iontophoresis treat?
- Does iontophoresis work for underarms?
- How often do I need iontophoresis treatments?
- Are iontophoresis treatments safe for everyone?
- What are the side effects of iontophoresis?
- Can iontophoresis make sweating worse?
- Should I buy my own iontophoresis machine?
- Should I get iontophoresis treatments or ETS surgery?
WHAT IS IONTOPHORESIS?
Iontophoresis is a form of electrotherapy that treats injuries and certain types of hyperhidrosis.
It's an effective option for treating palmoplantar hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating of the hands and feet. It also treats axillary hyperhidrosis, or excessive armpit sweating, when prescription antiperspirants don’t work.
During an iontophoresis treatment, you submerge your hands or feet in shallow pans of water or attach special water-soaked pads to your armpits. A medical device passes a mild electrical current through the water to your skin’s surface. The current passes one way for a certain amount of time and then reverses.
Iontophoresis commonly uses tap water; however, tap water in some locations may not contain enough minerals or electrolytes to be effective.
Some people report better results by adding salt or baking soda to the water to increase conductivity. If neither of these is sufficient, adding a crushed prescription anticholinergic to the water may help.
HOW DOES IONTOPHORESIS HELP EXCESSIVE SWEATING?
Doctors aren’t entirely sure why iontophoresis helps reduce excessive sweating. There are a few theories that make sense:
- Ion deposits may plug the sweat glands.
- Electric currents may disrupt nerve transmission, preventing sweat ducts from functioning correctly.
- The skin’s pH may decrease due to the accumulation of hydrogen ions.
DOES IONTOPHORESIS REALLY WORK?
Iontophoresis has been used to treat some types of hyperhidrosis since the 1940s. It is one of the more effective sweat treatments available.
The effects of iontophoresis treatments lessen over time. You must follow a regular maintenance schedule to see continued results.
WHAT DOES IONTOPHORESIS FEEL LIKE?
Compared to many other hyperhidrosis treatment options, iontophoresis is relatively painless.
Your doctor will turn on the iontophoresis machine and increase the current until you feel a slight tingling sensation. The sensation might feel like a tiny pinprick or bee sting. Each session lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
DOES IONTOPHORESIS CURE HYPERHIDROSIS?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hyperhidrosis. However, iontophoresis can help control your symptoms if you have certain types of hyperhidrosis. Still, it requires consistent, regular treatments if you want to see results.
WHAT BODY PARTS DOES IONTOPHORESIS TREAT?
Iontophoresis is most effective for palmar or plantar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the hands and feet). It can also treat axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive armpit sweating).
DOES IONTOPHORESIS WORK FOR UNDERARMS?
Yes. However, since you can’t submerge your armpits in water and can only use water-soaked pads connected to the machine, the treatment may be less effective for underarm sweating.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED IONTOPHORESIS TREATMENTS?
You might undergo several sessions per week in the doctor’s or dermatologist’s office until you notice a difference in your sweating. Once you see improvements, you can decrease your treatments to once per week.
ARE IONTOPHORESIS TREATMENTS SAFE FOR EVERYONE?
Due to the electric currents used in treatments, iontophoresis is not for everyone. If you have any of the following conditions, you may not be a candidate for iontophoresis:
- Cardiac patients and those with pacemakers, defibrillators or heart arrhythmias
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Severe vascular disorders
- Metal implants
- Large skin lesions, infections or malignancies in the treatment areas
- Polyneuropathy, or impaired sensation in the hands, feet or underarms
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF IONTOPHORESIS?
While usually mild, iontophoresis can cause some side effects:
- Skin irritation, dryness and roughness
- Burning sensation or small blisters
- Tingling and stinging sensations
- Muscle numbness
CAN IONTOPHORESIS MAKE SWEATING WORSE?
Iontophoresis can cause increased sweating, but this usually subsides after a few treatments.
SHOULD I BUY MY OWN IONTOPHORESIS MACHINE?
If you need weekly iontophoresis treatments, you might consider buying a portable iontophoresis machine for home use. There are a few brands to choose from, ranging in price from a few hundred to several hundred dollars. Some insurers cover the cost of these machines, so check with your doctor before purchasing one.
SHOULD I GET IONTOPHORESIS TREATMENTS OR ETS SURGERY?
When evaluating medical treatments, it’s best to start with the least invasive options. If you’re considering getting ETS surgery instead of iontophoresis treatments, think again. Getting surgery to end your sweating forever may sound tempting, but don’t do it! ETS surgery is irreversible, expensive and has drastic side effects.
AN EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE TO IONTOPHORESIS
Iontophoresis is a promising solution for people with certain types of hyperhidrosis. But for those with severe axillary hyperhidrosis, iontophoresis might not be enough to relieve you.
Instead of spending time and money on treatments that aren’t guaranteed to work, try wearing a sweat proof Thompson Tee.
Designed for people with axillary hyperhidrosis, the Thompson Tee features patented Hydro-Shield sweat proof technology in the armpits to block sweat from seeping through your clothes and causing wet marks and stains. The Thompson Tee provides easy, natural relief for excessive sweating!