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Health Library : Dermatology


Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)

What is excessive sweating?

Excessive sweating, also called hyperhidrosis, can affect the entire body, but usually occurs in the palms, soles, armpits, and/or groin area. Excessive sweating is normal when a person is anxious or has a fever. However, when the condition is chronic, it may be hyperhidrosis or it can signal thyroid problems, low blood sugar, nervous system disorders, or other medical problems. Typically, hyperhidrosis is a benign problem with no clear cause.

What are the symptoms of excessive sweating?

Areas that produce excessive sweat usually appear pink or white, but, in severe cases, may appear cracked, scaly, and soft (especially on the feet). Other symptoms may include a bad odor caused by bacteria and yeast in the wet skin.

Hyperhidrosis can lead to significant distress socially and in the workplace.

The symptoms of excessive sweating may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Treatment for excessive sweating

Specific treatment for excessive sweating will be determined by your doctor, based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Severity of the condition
  • Cause of the condition
  • Your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may involve topical, oral, surgical, or nonsurgical treatments, including:

  • Prescription-strength antiperspirants applied nightly
  • Methenamine solution applications to the area (to control heavy sweating)
  • Nighttime applications of aluminum chloride solution to the area (to control heavy sweating)
  • Thoracoscopic sympathectomy. A surgical interruption of the sympathetic nerve pathways that lead to the sweat glands.
  • Botulinum toxin A injection (Botox). Botulinum toxin helps to inhibit the release of acetylcholine (a substance that is active in the transmissions of nerve impulses). 
  • Tap water iontophoresis (applying a weak electrical current to the area)
  • Psychological counseling and/or medication (to reduce anxiety)


The cause of hyperhidrosis can be serious. Please contact your doctor for a complete evaluation.

In addition, contact your health care provider immediately if you have excessive sweating:

  • With or followed by chest pain
  • With fever, weight loss, shortness of breath, or a rapid, pounding heartbeat
  • That most often occurs during sleep

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Dermatology

 Sources & References


 Find an MUSC Doctor:
 »General Internal Medicine
 »Family Medicine

 Treatment at MUSC:
 »Dermatology Clinic
 »Family Medicine Center



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