Hyperhidrosis

Updated: Jun 06, 2016
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Hyperhidrosis, which is sweating in excess of that required for normal thermoregulation, is a condition that usually begins in either childhood or adolescence. Although any site on the body can be affected by hyperhidrosis, the sites most commonly affected are the palms, soles, and axillae. See the image below.

Hyperhidrosis of the palms. Courtesy of DermNet Ne Hyperhidrosis of the palms. Courtesy of DermNet New Zealand (http://www.dermnetnz.org/assets/Uploads/hair-nails-sweat/hyperhidrosis.jpg).

Hyperhidrosis may be idiopathic or secondary to other diseases, metabolic disorders, febrile illnesses, or medication use. Hyperhidrosis exists in 3 forms: emotionally induced hyperhidrosis (in which it affects the palms, soles, and axillae, [1, 2] localized hyperhidrosis, and generalized hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis often causes great emotional distress and occupational disability for the patient, regardless of the form.

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Pathophysiology

Generalized hyperhidrosis may be the consequence of autonomic dysregulation, or it may develop secondary to a metabolic disorder, febrile illness, or malignancy. In its localized form, hyperhidrosis may result from a disruption followed by abnormal regeneration of sympathetic nerves or a localized abnormality in the number or distribution of the eccrine glands, or it may be associated with other (usually vascular) abnormalities.

Essential hyperhidrosis, a disorder of the eccrine sweat glands, is associated with sympathetic overactivity. [3] Essential hyperhidrosis does not appear to be a generalized disorder involving vascular endothelium.

Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis may be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. [4]

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Epidemiology

Frequency

United States

In adolescents and young adults, an incidence rate of 0.6-1% is reported for hyperhidrosis. [5]

International

Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis occurs 20 times more frequently in the Japanese than in any other ethnic group. [6, 7]

Race

All races can be affected by hyperhidrosis; however, Japanese are reportedly affected more than 20 times more frequently than other ethnic groups. [6, 7]

Sex

Both sexes can be affected by hyperhidrosis.

Age

Persons of all ages can be affected by hyperhidrosis. Localized hyperhidrosis, unlike generalized hyperhidrosis, usually begins in childhood or adolescence. In a study of 850 patients with palmar, axillary, or facial hyperhidrosis, 62% of patients reported that sweating began since before they could remember; 33%, since puberty; and 5%, during adulthood. [8]

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Prognosis

Hyperhidrosis is difficult to treat effectively. Hyperhidrosis is not associated with mortality. Severe cases of hyperhidrosis may adversely affect the patient's quality of life (see Complications). With the newer treatment modalities now available, the patient has numerous options and is offered a better prognosis.

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Patient Education

Patients with hyperhidrosis should be educated regarding all of the treatment options, including their corresponding complications and costs.

For patient education resources, see the Procedures Center, as well as BOTOX® Injections.

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