How many times has this happened to you: you’re about to meet someone for the first time, you go to shake their hand, and you feel a familiar wetness under your arms, or worse, in the palms of your hands. Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can leave a person feeling dirty, self-conscious, or uncomfortable. The most common cause of excessive sweating is a condition called focal hyperhidrosis, and while it may feel isolating in the moment, it actually affects 1-3% of the population. Aside from prescription antiperspirants, the most common treatment for hyperhidrosis is iontophoresis, a treatment that’s been in use to treat excessive sweating since the 1940s. Today, we’ll be discussing what that treatment looks like and what you can expect from the treatment regimen.
What is Iontophoresis for Hyperhidrosis?
Usually used as a next step for people who have tried prescription antiperspirants, iontophoresis is a method of treating excessive sweating. When using iontophoresis for hyperhidrosis, the treatment involves placing hands into two different shallow pans of water. The iontophoresis machine then passes a low-level electrical current through the body, which then stops sweating. Alternatively, for other areas of the body such as underarms, the current passes through electrodes soaked in water. When used regularly, typically about once a week, the treatment has been shown to reduce sweating by as much as 90%.
How Does It Work?
Despite the research suggesting that iontophoresis really does work, doctors and scientists are still at a loss as to why. Right now, the prevailing thought is that it the action of iontophoresis plugs up sweat glands, though examination of the sweat glands using electron microscopy found no changes to the glands themselves.
What Does an Iontophoresis for Hyperhidrosis Treatment Regimen Look Like
The treatment is performed using an iontophoresis machine in the home. As we mentioned above, the machine runs a current from one shallow pan of water to another. Treatments last about 10 to 20 minutes, and must be performed at least once a week to be effective, though adults suffering from severe hyperhidrosis should begin with 2-3 treatments per week until the desired dryness is achieved. At that point, they are switched to a maintenance schedule of one session per week. Typically, patients should expect to see results within the 6-10 treatments.
If you purchase one of these machines, be sure to discuss the proper treatment protocol with your doctor and the machine’s manufacturer in order to be sure that you’re performing the treatment safely. If you live in an area with especially “soft” water, meaning your tap water doesn’t contain minerals or electrolytes, a teaspoon of baking soda can be added in order to make the treatment more effective. If this still doesn’t produce the desired level of dryness, you might consider speaking to your doctor about adding a crushed tablet of prescription medication for hyperhidrosis, which might make the treatment more effective.
If you’re a lifelong sufferer of heavy sweating and other methods have failed, it can be difficult not to feel isolated by the discomfort or embarrassment you may feel. However, with iontophoresis for hyperhidrosis, you can reduce excessive sweating, get back your confidence, and enjoy the freedom of not having to worry about your hands, feet, or underarms.