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Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis is characterized by abnormal, excessive sweating that can occur in the hands, armpits and feet. For some, the abundant sweating is localized to one area, such as the hands, while others may experience increased sweating in a combination of areas.

Hyperhidrosis is rare, affecting about 1 percent of the population. However, for those affected, the condition often interferes with their daily activities and can be rather embarrassing in social situations. Although the exact cause of this excessive sweating remains unknown, we do know that it is commonly controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which normally responds strongly in situations of fear or stress.

Hyperhidrosis is characterized by abnormal, profuse sweating that can affect one or a combination of the following:

  • Hands, called palmar hyperhidrosis
  • Armpits, called axillary hyperhidrosis
  • Feet, called plantar hyperhidrosis

The excessive sweating often interferes with daily activities. For example, patients with palmar hyperhidrosis have wet, moist hands that sometimes interfere with grasping objects. Those with axillary hyperhidrosis sweat profusely from their underarms causing them to stain their clothes shortly after they dress. Plantar hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating of the feet, makes ones socks and shoes wet, which leads to increased foot odor.

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Hyperhidrosis is diagnosed by physical examination. In addition, your doctor will ask how long you have been experiencing excessive sweating, what areas are affected, how often it happens and other questions to get a sense of the extent of your condition.

Many patients with hyperhidrosis try topical medications or herbal remedies to ease their condition, but these efforts have only temporary or no benefit.

The only treatment with proven long-term results involves surgical interruption of the sympathetic chain. These nerves primarily affect blood flow to the skin and the function of the sweat glands. Interrupting the sympathetic nerves in the chest results in dilation of the veins and arteries in the arm and hand as well as the complete blockage of sweating.

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