Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating caused by a problem with the sympathetic nervous system. In some cases, sweating can be controlled by non-surgical treatments such as:

  • Topical Antiperspirants: These include antiperspirants containing aluminum chloride. Drysol, a topical lotion applied two to four times a day, is usually the first medication tried. It is often very effective for those patients with the mildest symptoms, but it can cause chapping and cracking of the skin.
  • Oral Medicines: Anticholinergic medicines, such as Robinul, are used to block certain receivers on nerve receptors at involuntary nerve sites. In people with hyperhidrosis, this leads to decreased sweating. Some psychotropic drugs (drugs that affect mental function), such as amitriptyline, have also been prescribed for hyperhidrosis.
  • Iontophoresis (Drionics): This treatment option involves applying a low-intensity electrical current to the hands or feet while they are immersed in an electrolyte solution. When used daily, it can decrease the problem or even solve it temporarily. However, the procedure is time-consuming, and some patients find it to be mildly to moderately painful.
  • Botox: This substance, which comes from the botulism toxin, is injected into the affected area. Botox sometimes works for axillary hyperhidrosis but tends to be less successful for palmar symptoms. When it works, Botox is effective for 3 to 4 months and must be repeatedly administered for patients to reap the benefits.

While these treatments can help many people live better with hyperhidrosis, they do not work for everyone and their effectiveness can decrease over time. They also do not offer a permanent solution for the problem. Consequently, many people with hyperhidrosis consider a minimally invasive surgery known as a thorascopic sympathetectomy. Also known as an endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy or ETS, this surgery offers permanent relief for hyperhidrosis.

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To make an appointment with the University of Maryland Division of Thoracic Surgery, please call 410-328-6366.