What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive sweating. It occurs when overactive sweat glands release a volume of sweat that is significantly more than your body’s normal requirements for cooling. Over 110,000 Australians suffer from excessive underarm sweating.
Types of Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis can generalised (affecting the whole body), or focal (affecting certain areas only). Type of focal hyperhidrosis include axillary (underarms), palmar/plantar (palms and/or soles), craniofacial (face, crown on head), and inguinal (groin).
Hyperhidrosis can be primary (no underlying disease or disorder), or secondary (occurring as a result of an underlying medical condition, injury, or certain medications). The majority of cases are primary, and have onset in childhood, adolescents or young adulthood. Cases presenting in later life are more likely to be secondary.
How Hyperhidrosis can affect your life
There are millions of people around the world that suffer from hyperhidrosis and it can be an isolating, chronic condition. Due to the embarrassing nature of the condition, more than half of the people with it are never diagnosed or treated for their symptoms. Severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis can affect people physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Some of the issues that these people face are:
Different treatments are more suitable for different sorts of hyperhidrosis.
What treatments are available for severe axillary hyperhidrosis (underarm sweating)?
Most over-the-counter antiperspirants contain metallic salts. These salts have been found to block sweat ducts, reducing the amount of perspiration that reaches the skin. Deodorants are often combined (deodorants are not designed to control sweating; they mask the odour usually associated with it). Regular antiperspirants are usually insufficient for severe axillary hyperhidrosis.
Clinical strength antiperspirants contain more concentrated antiperspirants, and can be effective for many cases of severe axillary hyperhidrosis. However, these often cause irritation, especially if not used correctly.
Botulium toxin injections
These work by temporarily blocking the chemical signals from the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. As a result, sweating is usually greatly reduced in the area injected for a period of 4-12 months.
The procedure involves a short office visit. Each axilla receives approximately 25 injections via a very fine needle. Discomfort is usually minor, and can be further reduce by first applying local anaesthetic cream (numbing cream) and the application of ice. The procedure is over in under 10 minutes.
The main limitation of this treatment previously was the cost of the medication. However, now that the PBS has subsidized the treatment, the out-of-pocket cost is now minimized (see below).
Am I eligible for an PBS subsidized injectable treatment?
People with severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis are eligible for treatment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) if they are:
Surgery and other procedures
A variety of surgical approaches have been used to treat severe underarm sweating but they are usually reserved for the most extreme cases that do not respond to other treatments. Surgical methods used include removal of axillary sweat glands, endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy and other techniques.