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Hyperhidrosis (Excessive foot sweating)

Overview

Hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis) is abnormally excessive sweating that's not necessarily related to heat or exercise. You may sweat so much that it soaks through your clothes or drips off your hands. Besides disrupting normal daily activities, this type of heavy sweating can cause social anxiety and embarrassment.

Hyperhidrosis treatment usually helps, beginning with prescription-strength antiperspirants. If antiperspirants don't help, you may need to try different medications and therapies.

Symptoms

Most people sweat when they exercise or exert themselves, are in a hot environment, or are anxious or under stress. The excessive sweating experienced with hyperhidrosis far exceeds such normal sweating.

The type of hyperhidrosis that usually affects the feet causes at least one episode a week, during waking hours., and the sweating usually occurs on both feet.

When to see a doctor

Sometimes excessive sweating is a sign of a serious condition.

Seek immediate medical attention if your heavy sweating is accompanied by lightheadedness, chest pain or nausea.

See your doctor if:

  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine
  • Sweating causes emotional distress or social withdrawal
  • You suddenly begin to sweat more than usual
  • You experience night sweats for no apparent reason

Causes

Sweating is your body's natural mechanism of cooling itself down. Your nervous system automatically triggers your sweat glands when your body temperature rises.

The most common form of hyperhidrosis is called primary focal (essential) hyperhidrosis. With this type, the nerves responsible for signaling your sweat glands become overactive, even though they haven't been triggered by physical activity or a rise in temperature. With stress or nervousness, the problem becomes even worse.

There is no medical cause for this type of hyperhidrosis. It may have a hereditary component, because it sometimes runs in families.

Secondary hyperhidrosis occurs when excess sweating is due to a medical condition and is less common than primary foal hyperhidrosis. It's more likely to cause sweating all over your body. Conditions that may lead to heavy sweating include:

  • Diabetes
  • Menopause hot flashes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Low blood sugar
  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Infections

Lifestyle and home remedies

The following suggestions may help you cope with sweating and body odor:

  • Use antiperspirant. Nonprescription antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that temporarily block the sweat pore. This reduces the amount of sweat that reaches your skin. This type of product may help with minor hyperhidrosis.
  • Apply astringents. Apply over-the-counter products containing tannic acid (Zilactin) to the affected area.
  • Bathe daily. Regular bathing helps keep the number of bacteria on your skin in check. Dry yourself thoroughly, especially between the toes and under the arms.
  • Choose shoes and socks made of natural materials. Shoes made of natural materials, such as leather, can help prevent sweaty feet by allowing your feet to breathe. When you're active, moisture-wicking athletic socks are a good choice.
  • Change your socks often. Change socks or hose once or twice a day, drying your feet thoroughly each time. You may want to try pantyhose with cotton soles. Use over-the-counter foot powders to help absorb sweat.
  • Air your feet. Go barefoot when you can, or at least slip out of your shoes now and then.
  • Choose clothing to suit your activity. Generally, wear natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool and silk, which allow your skin to breathe. When you exercise, you might prefer fabrics designed to wick moisture away from your skin.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and biofeedback. These can help you learn to control the stress that triggers sweating.

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