Do you suffer from excessive sweating? If so, help is at hand. TV's Dr Pixie McKenna answers some common questions about the condition.
What constitutes excessive sweating?
Excessive sweating can range from moderate moisture to severe and is typically localised to the underarms, palms, soles of feet, face and other areas due to relatively high concentration of sweat glands in those areas. This can result in large wet stains on clothing, damp and smelly feet, or clammy and wet hands that can be both inconvenient and embarrassing.
In excessive sweating, the body's cooling mechanism is so overactive that it can produce up to four or five times the amount of sweat needed to regulate its temperature.
For people experiencing excessive sweating, the fear and embarrassment of being discovered can often be very stressful and cause sufferers to adopt corrective behaviours. Everyday life can be severely impacted with avoidance of wearing certain types of clothing, the need to apply antiperspirant several times a day, repeated body washing and also the worry about whether wetness or odour is obvious to others.
What causes excessive sweating?
Excessive sweating can be experienced by anyone at any time and research shows that many people have to re-apply deodorant daily as a result of this. There are two main causes for perspiration. Firstly due to climate (heat and humidity), excessive activity in the sweat glands (sports) and hormonal changes due to puberty and the menopause. Secondly we can sweat for emotional reasons such as embarrassment, personal or professional situations such as stress, excitement and nervousness. Excessive sweating can have a number of different triggers, from pregnancy, the menopause, to anxiety, low blood sugar and certain medications.
What solutions are available for excessive sweating?
A number of different solutions are available for excessive sweating and perspiration. Antiperspirants such as Perspirex are the most common solution for people who suffer from excessive sweating. Perspirex decreases the production of perspiration in the sweat glands by preventing sweat from reaching the surface of the skin through temporarily forming a plug in the sweat duct, offering 3-5 days of sweat and odour protection.
What is the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant?
Most people think that antiperspirants and deodorants are the same thing, but actually there is a significant difference between the two.
Deodorants do not stop sweat. Instead, they are designed to temporarily neutralise the smell or odour from the bacteria living on the skin. Many deodorants contain fragrance which serves to mask bad odour.
Whereas antiperspirants actually work on decreasing or halting the production of perspiration in the sweat glands. Once antiperspirant is applied, this forms a temporary plug in the opening of the sweat duct which stops the sweat being released. The antiperspirant plug is naturally dispelled over the next few days, the duration depending on which brand of antiperspirant has been used.
How many people have you treated that have suffered with excessive sweating?
I have treated hundreds of people for excessive sweating. That said as many as one in 100 people are said to suffer, so I suspect what I am seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. Many people sit at home and suffer in silence.
In what ways and to what extent have you seen excessive sweating impact people’s lives and behavior?
I could recount numerous stories of patients who have been held back personally and professionally because of their excessive sweating. They are conscious of the issue from the moment they get up in the morning, especially during the summer months, sweating shapes their day. Many patients avoid certain activities e.g. exercise or adopt corrective habits like hourly application of antiperspirant as part of their daily routine. Clothing choices are a particular issue, sleeves are the order of the day for female suffers, whereas as many males will simply keep their suit jackets on all day to avoid revealing sweat patches on their shirts. On first dates, special occasions or even standing up to give a presentation, perspiration can prove the most nerve-wracking component of any activity.
• What psychological impact can excessive sweating have on a sufferer?
Patients are embarrassed and become preoccupied about smelling of sweat. It can impact their confidence, their mood and even their ability to secure certain career opportunities or foster relationships with the opposite sex. Many patients are ashamed as they feel they should have said goodbye to body odour after puberty. I have seen patients who have become increasingly anxious because of their symptoms, which only make matters worse, often resulting in even more sweating. Some sufferers become so self-conscious that they experience a downward spiral and become clinically depressed.
What advice would you give to someone who suffers from excessive sweating?
Seek help, don’t suffer in silence. Stop focusing on banishing smells and start focusing on banishing sweat with a high strength antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride. Opt for something that is long lasting and promises to protect you for hours, and ensure it is not only effective in terms of banishing sweat but that it is also skin kind.
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