Monday 19 August 2019

Ask an expert: 'Help! I can't stop sweating in work'

Every summer, I sweat in a suit for work. How can I prevent this?

Sweating in the office can be embarrassing
Sweating in the office can be embarrassing

Dr Jennifer Grant

Dear Doctor, I work in an office and have to wear a suit, which is quite hard in this warm weather! Are there tips to keep cool to avoid sweating?

A: It’s hard to call it excessive sweating when the temperature is above 20°C, but the medical condition you descrbe is known as ‘hyperhidrosis’, and an estimated 1pc-3pc of the population suffer with moderate or severe forms of it.

The good news is that hyperhidrosis rarely has a serious underlying cause, but it has a significant social and psychological impact on daily activities. It can be ‘focal’ when it typically affects the armpits, palms of the hands, soles of the feet or, more rarely, the face, scalp, groin region or under the breasts.

Other classic features include: the age of onset, which is usually less than 25 years old; a family history of the condition; bilateral sweating (ie. both soles or palms are affected); and a daytime-only occurance of symptoms.

The other less common form of the condition is ‘generalised’ hyperhidrosis, when the whole body is affected, and this can occur both during the day and night. Systemic conditions such as chronic infection, thyroid gland dysfunction, and other endocrine disorders can be the underlying cause.

There are only a few proven treatment options for hyperhidrosis. You may have tried aluminium-containing antiperspirant deodorants that work in the very mild forms of hyperhidrosis.

Botulinum toxin ‘Botox’ injections are used in the treatment of focal hyperhidrosis and take three to seven days for full effect, with a sustained reduction in sweating for approximately six months.

There is a non-invasive laser therapy called microwave thermolysis ‘MiraDry’ that uses electromagnetic technology to decompose the sweat glands, with typically two treatments required three months apart and results are usually permanent.

Sympathectomy is another permanent but surgical procedure — this cuts the nerve supply to the sweat glands and involves some rare potential complications. For this reason, sympathectomy is generally reserved for patients who have a BMI under 28, an absence of symptoms at night and no significant underlying medical conditions.

A few easy, helpful measures to consider if you have hyperhydrosis is to lose weight (if you are overweight), shower twice per day, and wear loose-fitting clothing.

In addition, reduce or avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol consumption.

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