Q. I have hyperhidrosis, which means that I sweat excessively. It’s distressing and awkward, particularly at work. My palms are wet and clammy when I shake hands and I have to choose my clothes carefully so that patches don’t appear under my armpits. I have tried the usual antiperspirants to no avail. What else can I do?
A: This troubling condition affects at least one per cent of the population. It usually has no obvious cause, although it can be a side effect of medications such as antidepressants, and you may have found that stress, alcohol and spicy food make it worse.
As you have tried regular antiperspirants without success, I suggest you try a stronger one containing aluminium chloride. Roll-on antiperspirants Anhydrol Forte or Driclor are available in most chemists or online, and may be given on prescription, as is spray antiperspirant Odaban. Apply it at night to clean, dry skin to give it time to work, as people tend to sweat less at night. After a week or two of applying it daily, you may find you only need it every two or three days. However, it can cause irritation.
An alternative is SweatStop, which offers a range of strengths and can be used on most skin types. There is also an aluminium-free version, SweatStop IXAL, which is available as an underarm roll-on.
A more unusual option for sweaty hands, feet and armpits is a treatment called iontophoresis. You put your hands or feet in shallow trays of water, then a weak electric current is applied. This is carried out as seven treatments over four weeks with twice monthly top-ups, and can be done at home. The mechanism is not entirely clear, but it is thought to work for 70 to 80 per cent of patients.
If these options don’t work for your underarms, then you could try Botox. Botox is more commonly used to block the nerve signals that cause wrinkles and make people frown. But it is also very effective at reducing excessive sweating by blocking nerve signals to your armpits, although you will need repeated injections as it can wear off after three to six months. Unfortunately, Botox is available in only a few NHS settings and is mostly done as a private procedure. Performed by a trained, experienced practitioner, serious side effects are rare, though you may get pain at the site of injection or mild temporary weakness in the muscles nearby.
Treatments aside, you should try to avoid tight-fitting clothes and manmade fabrics which may make sweating worse, particularly on the feet. Absorbent cotton underlayers and natural fibres can help. Your pharmacist can advise you about other solutions such as armpit shields to protect clothing and foot powder for sweaty feet.
If it’s any consolation, the problem may reduce over time, as we tend to sweat less as we get older.
For more information and support, visit hyperhidrosisuk.org.
Instant callers for stressed mums
I recently came across a delightful book, Mindfulness for Mums by Izzy Judd (£14.99, Michael Joseph), a classically trained musician who reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent (and is the wife of McFly’s drummer Harry Judd).
Izzy, who has struggled with anxiety herself, wrote this after having children to provide simple, easy and fun activities for both parents and children of all ages to restore calm and peace to even the most overwhelming days. She includes engaging ways to take brief pauses during the day, to practise conscious breathing as well as one-minute mindfulness. A great way to embrace a new daily practice, even if you have a frenetic life. Good for you and those around you, too.
To order a copy for £9.99 (a discount of 33 per cent) with free p&p until 30 April, call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk.