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Excessive Sweating: Why It Happens And What To Do About It

You can kiss your 'spare shirt' goodbye.
That's one sweaty Betty.
John Fedele
That's one sweaty Betty.

Everybody sweats. Whether it's a boiling hot day or you've just gone gangbusters at the gym, there is absolutely nothing wrong with some good old fashioned perspiration. Dogs pant, we sweat. End of story.

However, for some people, sweating isn't a case of getting a bit sticky post-workout or feeling clammy in really humid weather. It can happen daily -- and worse, excessively -- prompting the need to wear undershirts or even bring a change of clothes to work.

Furthermore, sweat is linked to bad B.O. (though this isn't the case for everyone) which can mean not only is the actual sweat a problem, the smell that comes with it is, too.

So why are some people sweatier than others? And is there anything you can do to help you keep it under control?


"Sweating is actually a very complicated topic, more so than people might think," dermatologist Dr Michael Rich told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Some people just sweat more than others. There are familial tendencies for some people to sweat more, no question about it. Other factors can also play a part, such as exercise, whether or not someone is sick, hot weather... all of these can contribute to how much a person sweats."

According to Rich, excessive sweating (also known as hyperhidrosis) is more common in men than in women, though it's the latter who are more likely to seek treatment. While there's no physical harm caused by having overactive sweat glands, Rich said the social implications, for some people, can be a real concern.

"The most common complaint I get about sweating is that it's a social embarrassment," Rich said. "People will say, 'the minute I go into a meeting my face sweats and I'm embarrassed,' or 'there's always a [sweat] patch under my arm'."

Aaand time for today's third shirt change...
Aaand time for today's third shirt change...

For those who sweat more than they'd like to, there are some "common sense methods" Rich suggests adopting before seeking out more intrusive treatments.

"I would say to cut down on things like coffee and wear loose cotton clothing," Rich said. "Friction on the skin can cause irritation and makes you sweat, so loose clothing is good.

"Clothing should also be smooth. If it's prickly, it can induce a sweat-like reaction.

"You can also buy aluminium-based products from the chemist which can help, though these only provide temporary relief.

"For those with a serious problem, however, these methods will only really be playing at the edges. In those cases, where it's not enough and [the patient is] miserable, you have to do something more."

Unfortunately, not all sweating is of the glowy beach sunset variety.
Unfortunately, not all sweating is of the glowy beach sunset variety.

The next step in terms of treatment is "injectable botulinum toxin muscle relaxants", (to put it simply: Botox) which is normally used to treat facial lines and wrinkles.

It basically works by reducing the stimulation of the sweat glands (especially effective in the underarm area, though it can be performed on other locations of the body too) with results that should last for a period of six to nine months. Better yet, depending on the case, the procedure could be covered by Medicare (if performed by a qualified dermatologist).

"We do a hell of a lot of it here," Rich said. "It's very popular, largely because it's safe, the side effects are minimal and it also achieves good results.

"Its biggest problem is it hasn't worked for long enough. Some people expect it to last six to nine months and only get three.

"There is also a limit on the amount you can give, so what's enough for a female of 50kg might not be enough for a man of 80kg. If you want more, you can spend more money and pay for it, but it won't be [covered by the Medicare rebate]."

Mmmm... fragrant.
Laurence Monneret
Mmmm... fragrant.

Other treatments available include anticholinergic oral medications as well as some surgical options, such as liposuction of the sweat glands.

"While the oral medications can prove effective in terms of decreasing the amount you sweat, they can also dry out other parts of your body, such as your mouth, as they basically work by stopping all secretions," Rich said.

"Liposuction, in which you can suck out the sweat glands, works for 80 percent of patients, but it's obviously a much more invasive procedure and some people don't want to go that far.

"I think, for really severe cases, I would recommend people try the aluminium chloride products first. If that doesn't work, look at Botox, and failing that, then look at more aggressive measures."

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