Figure 1. Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis is a skin disorder characterized by excessive sweating, ranging from mild dampness, to dripping sweat. It can have a serious impact on quality of life, affecting work, social life, activities, and mental health.1
Hyperhidrosis is highly prevalent, but also under-diagnosed and under-treated. It affects approximately 15.3 million people in the US (4.8% of the population).1 Higher prevalence estimates have been reported in other countries, including Japan (13.9%)2 and Sweden (20.3%).3 Hyperhidrosis is classified as either primary or secondary in nature.
Primary hyperhidrosis (also known as focal hyperhidrosis), tends to affect the underarms, palms, soles, face, and head, although other areas such as the groin and under the breasts can also be affected.1 It is usually relatively symmetrical, meaning that both the left and right sides of the body are affected similarly. It can affect one area or multiple areas at once.1,4 Although people with primary hyperhidrosis have episodes of excessive sweating at least once a week, they usually do not experience excessive sweating while sleeping. Secondary hyperhidrosis involves the entire body and is caused by an underlying medical condition or is a side effect of medication.1
Excessive sweating creates a constantly moist environment, which can cause additional complications, including increased risk of skin infections, body odor, and psychological distress.4
Patients with primary hyperhidrosis have no underlying medical condition or medication history that may cause excessive sweating, whereas patients with secondary hyperhidrosis may have an underlying medical condition or it may be a side effect of a medication.
The causes of primary hyperhidrosis are unknown, although it is likely to be a result of a problem with part of the nervous system that controls sweating. While primary hyperhidrosis can be exacerbated by stress, anxiety, a warm environment, and physical activity, it often occurs without apparent cause. Primary hyperhidrosis may be hereditary, as over 60% of hyperhidrosis patients indicate that other family members have hyperhidrosis too.5
International Hyperhidrosis Society
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