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Hyperhidrosis
Signs and Symptoms

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.

Symptoms of hyperhidrosis often become noticeable during childhood and adolescence. In many cases sweating can be quite severe, affecting everyday life and causing social embarrassment. It is thought that the excessive sweating may be brought on by stress, emotions or exercise. However, it also can occur spontaneously.

The sympathetic nervous system controls the sweating throughout the body. Often there is no identifiable cause, but excessive activity of the sympathetic nervous system is believed to be responsible in the majority of those affected. The sympathetic nervous system normally responds strongly in situations of fear or stress. It is not understood why patients with hyperhidrosis appear to have constant increased activity of this system. The involved nerves branch from the sympathetic chain within the chest cavity.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Thoracic Surgery and Oncology
1600 Divisadero St., Fourth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143-1705
Phone: (415) 885-3882
Fax: (415) 353-9525
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