If you have problems with extreme sweating, you're not alone. As Dr. Pixie McKenna from British medical show Embarrassing Bodies explains, 1-5% of people have it—and even if you don't, you should probably know these 9 things about sweat anyway.
1. Extreme sweating is called hyperhidrosis
It's phenomenally common. 1-5% of the population have hyperhidrosis which is where you sweat excessively. It can come on in your teens or in your twenties, but it generally tends to stay with you pretty much most of your adult life. It's a big problem. Physically it's annoying and you end up having to do lots of washing, you choose what you wear [specifically] etc etc, but also I think psychologically, you're immediately on the back foot.
2. Normally we should produce 1 liter of sweat a day
Sweat is basically our way of regulating our temperature. We all have to sweat. Anybody that says they don't sweat, they do. Sweat is sodium chloride—it's sweat and water, essentially. We normally produce about a litre a day—in extreme circumstances you might produce 5 liters if you were in the desert or something like that.
3. Sweat doesn't smell
There's a misconception that sweat smells—it doesn't. It only smells when it dries onto things, and then bacteria come and join the party. So if it's under your arm and it dries in, germs come and that's when it smells. The same if it's dried into your clothes—no amount of spraying things onto the sweat will get rid of the smell, you have to actually get rid of the sweat.
4. Over-sweating is due to a problem with your internal thermostat
People who have hyperhidrosis just seem to have an issue with their thermostat. Their thermostat is misinterpreting signals, so your sympathetic nervous system—which is the one that drives lots of stressful situations—is misinterpreting, misreading and misfiring, [in turn] producing excessive amounts of sweat when really another human might produce much less
5. Sweating could be a sign of an underlying health problem
Aside from having hyperhidrosis for no apparent reason, there are a group of people who will sweat uncontrollably because they have an underlying medical condition. They have a thyroid problem, they might have diabetes, Parkinsons disease makes them sweat more than the average person.
Oversweating could be a symptom of something else. Then there are particular sweating issues – like night sweats, which we see in patients who have anxiety or take certain medication, we see in patients who have lymphoma or malaria. That's a different type of sweating.
7. There's a huge difference between antiperspirants and deodorants
People tend to use deodorants, but all that's going to do is neutralize the smell, that's not going to stop you from sweating. That's a basic message the public just doesn't seem to understand. The key ingredient [in antiperspirants is] the aluminium chloride which is key because it puts a little plug in the sweat glands and that stops you from sweating.
8. You can combat hyperhidrosis in lots of different ways
You can obviously continue to use this product under your armpits, or there are medications that you can have that will stop you from sweating generally anywhere that you have sweating. But they are prescription medications that you need to take on a continuous basis and they do have side effects. They'll dry your mouth and they will give you blurred vision—it's kind of a trade off.
There's another treatment that the public are certainly not aware of which is called iontophoresis. This is where an electric current is delivered to your sweat glands through the medium of water and it's sort of like using a stun gun. It's a really successful treatment for people who have problematic areas of sweating—sweaty palms or sweaty feet.
Then you've got botox, which I think is great if you can afford it and be happy to have it. . The issue is you probably need about 50 injections into your armpits and it might last for three months, it might last for six months, but you'll definitely have to do it again.
Your other option is a sympathectomy, which is a procedure where they disable the sympathetic nerves. It's a serious operation. You can do it endoscopically, but it isn't done very often. One of the main problems with it is you get what's called compensatory hyperhidrosis so if you have this procedure for sweaty palms, your palms are fine but you start to sweat somewhere else. One of the other symptoms is horner's syndrome.
9. You are not "bothering your doctor"
We hear that all the time "we didn't want to bother the doctor." But that's why we're there, to be bothered. If you weren't bothering us, we wouldn't have a job. I think if you've gone beyond the regular antiperspirants and it isn't helping you, and it's really bothering you psychologically and physically, then you've got to go and get some help from your doctor.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.