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Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating can be a sign of infection, stress or a decline in sex hormones, or it can be normal for you. When your body temperature rises, hot blood flows to your brain, which sends signals to increase the flow of blood to your skin and start you sweating. Your body temperature rises naturally when you exercise or have an infection. However, you can sweat without a high temperature when hormone levels drop. At the menopause, women lose most of their estrogen and when their temperatures rise, they sweat, even if the change is from below normal to normal. The same mechanism occurs when men lose their hormones, such as when they are being treated for prostate cancer.

You sweat the most under your arms and around your breasts, genitals and rectum. Many cases of excessive sweating can be controlled by applying products such as Drysol (20 percent aluminum chloride in alcohol) on your armpits and wrapping plastic wrap over them before you go to sleep If your armpits itch or burn, remove the plastic and wash the area with soap and water. This process reduces sweating for six to eight days. You can repeat the procedure when you start to sweat heavily again.

Most antiperspirants contain aluminum, which is the third most abundant element on the earth's surface and is safe for external use. Increased amounts of aluminum have been found in brains of people who have died of Alzheimer's disease, but all damaged tissue picks up heavy metals. The increased aluminum is the result of the damage, not the cause. No responsible studies have demonstrated any link between antiperspirant use and Alzheimer's, breast cancer or any other disease.

In 1998, Dr. Walter Shelley of the Medical College of Ohio developed a breakthrough treatment for severe hand sweating when he injected botulinum toxin (Botox) into patients' palms. The patients stopped sweating on their palms for 4 to 12 months.

Another possible treatment for sweaty hands is a device called Drionic, where you place your hands on a special wet pad and have a weak current run through your hands; I have not personally evaluated this device. Scopolamine can also help to prevent sweating, but it can make you dizzy so you must take it in very low doses. Propanthelin 15 mg pills will reduce sweating for a few hours, but it can also make you feel dizzy.

Many people sweat profusely because they are nervous about appearing before an audience. An Inderal pill taken one half hour before public speaking or any other high-pressure event can prevent the sweating, shaking and other effects of stage fright. Inderal is a beta blocker commonly used to control blood pressure; it is a safe and very effective way to get rid of even the worst stage fright. Check with your doctor.

Why you sweat more after exercising

1) WB Shelley, NY Talanin, ED Shelley. Botulinum toxin therapy for palmar hyperhidrosis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 38:2 Part 1 (FEB 1998):227-229. Address WB Shelley, Med Coll Ohio, Dept Med, Div Dermatol, POB 10008, Toledo, OH 43699 USA.

2) Naumann M, et al. Archives of Dermatology 1998(March);134:301-304.

3) Drionic, available from General Medical Company, 1935 Armacost Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025-9937. I have not personally evaluated this machine.

4) M Heckmann, S Breit, A Ceballosbaumann, M Schaller, G Plewig. Axillary hyperhidrosis: successful treatment with Botulinum toxin-A. Hautarzt 49: 2 (FEB 1998):101-103. (Dysport, 400 Units) was injected intradermally in one axilla.

5)IR Odderson. Axillary hyperhidrosis: Treatment with botulinum toxin A. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 79: 3(MAR 1998):350-352. They received bilateral axillary injections with 100 units of botulinum toxin type A, and within 5 days reported cessation of excessive sweating.

Checked 3/29/13

May 30th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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