DR. HOOK- Phew! Sweaty palms, pits a slick problem

Sweaty hands? Feel the pressure? When I was younger, I used to sweat at the drop of a hat. In high school, I was in a show choir, "The Top 20." One dreaded night just before a performance, I ripped my pants in a bad place, but in Ethel Merman style, the show must go on!  

I was so nervous that my glasses fogged up, I sweated bullets, and my singing/dancing partner had to endure holding my sweaty hand. If I were Tarzan, I would have slipped off the vines and fallen into the mouth of a waiting crocodile.

Sweaty hands, feet, and armpits are no laughing matter for those with hyperhidrosis: excessive sweating (or, as Miss Manners would no doubt prefer, "perspiration"). Let's just focus on sweating hands, feet, and/or armpits, which are a source of embarrassment for those who suffer with the problem.   

Everyone's armpits sweat. That's why men wear T-shirts under their dress shirts (though Clark Gable didn't in It Happened One Night, which made his fans perspire more than his armpits). But in hyperhidrosis, the sweating occurs with stress, nervousness, or hot situations. Interestingly, hyperhidrosis doesn't occur during sleep (unlike night sweats, which occur mostly in the head, neck, and torso).  

There are as many deodorants and antiperspirants as hair coloring products on the pharmacy shelves because nobody wants to smell like a hockey player with seven missing teeth. The appearance of sweaty armpits is so not America's Next Top Model. When all over-the-counter antiperspirants fail, patients head for the doctor.

Aluminum is more than a foil wrap. It's also a key ingredient in products such as Drysol and Xerac to stop sweat glands from secreting. (I like the name Drysol because it sounds like something used in a home improvement show.) These heavy-duty antiperspirants are used everyday until the hyperhidrosis stops, and then used about once a week for maintenance.

However, hyperhidrosis of the hands and feet is much harder to treat than in the armpits. Hyperhidrosis of the feet can not only cause emotional distress but also bring unhealthy consequences. You know how when you soak in the tub too long your fingers and toes look like prunes? The same thing happens to feet trapped inside warm, dark shoes. The skin easily breaks down, making the feet prone to bleeding and infection. (Do not open mouth, insert foot.)

Shaking hands is a source of embarrassment. Can you imagine interviewing for a job? It's a nerve-wracking experience: you're worried your hands are going to sweat profusely– wait, they are sweating profusely– oh, boy you don't want to slime the new boss's hand, can't give him an Asian bow instead, yada yada yada. Not good.

What if you work in retail and your sweaty hands leave marks on the clothes? How about construction? Can you imagine swinging a heavy tool and having it fly out of your hands into someone's car windshield?

What are some remedies?

Botox does more than iron out an old face. It also blocks the sweat glands. But it has to be administered in a scatter-shot pattern of tiny injections that can be quite painful. An ion machine with plain ole tap water is being studied because it seems to work for some folks– and it's painless. Surgery– I shiver– can be done to destroy the nervous system that stimulates the sweat glands, but in general it's not recommended.

I don't sweat like I used to. Is it because I'm calmer? Hmmm, define "calm." People ask me if I get nervous when I'm on the TV news, and fortunately I do not. I struggle enough putting on my makeup at 6am. I would hate to powder my nose twice.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.



Thanks for the info! I agree with you, and it appears that you're in good company--the International Hyperhidrosis Society (www.sweathelp.org) does too. You've got to Know Sweat to No Sweat! LOL!

Dr. Hook.

I am a very calm person and I don't stress out that much. My feet, palms & pits sweat profusely at any given moment. My dad has it, I've had it as long as I can remember, and now my son has it. I don't really mind it anymore. I'm just curious, how many people are affected? is it hereditiy? and is it something to be concerned about?

Thank You