Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that is more than what is needed to regulate body temperature. About 7 million Americans suffer from hyperhidrosis, a disorder that often goes undiagnosed.
Normal sweating keeps the body cool and excretes some waste products of the body. Sweating is part of the sympathetic nervous system, a component of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary activities in the body, such as the beating of the heart and circulation of blood, in addition to sweating.
While sweating is a necessary function of the body, excessive sweating can negatively affect a person's quality of life. Hyperhidrosis can happen all over the body or only in specific parts. The hands, feet, armpits (axilla), and the groin area are the most active regions of perspiration because of the relatively high concentration of sweat glands in these areas. However, any part of the body can be affected by hyperhidrosis. The condition can start during adolescence or even before, and it appears that there is a genetic predisposition to the disorder.
Sweaty palms and feet can cause embarrassment and limit one's job choices, relationships, and ability to function normally in society. Excessive sweating can also be an occupational hazard, especially for those who must use their hands extensively in their jobs. Excessive sweating can also interfere with everyday activities, such as driving, taking tests, and holding objects. Facial blushing can cause anxiety and embarrassment, making it difficult to speak in front of an audience or engage in normal business or social activities, such as meetings, conferences, or sports.
Hyperhidrosis sufferers often feel a loss of control because the sweating happens independently without a high body temperature or highly charged emotional situation. The condition may make you avoid social situations, especially when they involve shaking hands. Anxiety can make hyperhidrosis worse. The condition can also be triggered by certain foods and drinks, nicotine, caffeine, and some smells.