The word “treatment” had never occurred to me, and I wasn’t even aware of the existing word that defined my lifelong insecurity. No doctor had verbalized it, and no article I read had stated it, but as I typed “excessive sweating” into my search bar, the same thirteen letter word filled my monitor; Hyperhidrosis (HH).
As my eyes darted from left to right across the screen, I consumed all of the information that I could possibly absorb. I soon learned that Hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DRO-sis) is frequent or constant excessive sweating. Sweating is your body’s mechanism to cool itself. In most circumstances, it’s both natural and healthy. But some people sweat in amounts greater than needed to cool the body, a condition called Hyperhidrosis (Staff, Mayo Clinic). I found that most of the questions I had pondered for years were answered through this research, and the rest, I answered through personal experience.
Sweat In Action:
I can still recall the day when the embarrassment of my rare condition became public. While in the midst of signing my friends’ yearbooks, I noticed that the letters I had written were illegible. I then gazed at my right hand, drenched in sweat, with the blue ink from the pen running down the side, and realized the destruction my condition had caused. I immediately closed the yearbook and wiped my hands on my thighs in mortification. I scurried to the bathroom, rushed to the first sink in sight, and tried to wash away the source of my embarrassment. Just when I thought it was over, as I hung my head in relief, I noticed a puddle beneath my feet, dripping over the sides of my rubber flip-flops. I made my way to the automatic blow dryer hanging on the wall, and blew my hands and feet dry for so long that I was surprised to see that my skin hadn’t cracked. Since that day, I have used a jacket as my personal hand towel, and I never go without wearing socks and sneakers.
Curiosity struck me, so I dove into my research. The statistics revealed during my search were astounding especially the prevalence of Hyperhidrosis; An estimated 7.8 million individuals in the United States experience HH; in most cases, the axillae [armpits] are the most common foci of the disease and the palms are the second most common sites (Ram). However, to understand Hyperhidrosis, you must first know the difference between Primary HH and Secondary HH.
Primary Hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that is not caused by another medical condition, nor is it a side effect of medications. In this case, the excessive sweating is the medical condition. This type of sweating will always occurs on very specific and symmetric areas of the body, meaning that both the left and right sides of the body are affected similarly. The most common sites are the hands, feet, underarms, and head or face. The sweating often begins in adolescence, especially HH of the hands and feet (International Hyperhidrosis Society: About Hyperhidrosis: Understanding Hyperhidrosis).
Secondary Hyperhidrosis however, is caused by another medical condition or occurs as a side effect of another condition. Unlike Primary HH, people who have Secondary HH will experience sweating on larger areas of the body, opposed to symmetric locations on the body (International Hyperhidrosis Society: About Hyperhidrosis: Understanding Hyperhidrosis).