By Dr. Indu Ballani, Dermatologist, Delhi
The scorching summer months are lurking on the horizon and we are desperately clinging to the last straws of the spring. With the temperature turning hot every year, a number of skin and health problems rear their head. The heat, the scorching sun, dust and dirt, a spurt in skin and scalp infections are among multiple factors that make us vulnerable in summers. One such problem is that of excessive sweating.
Sweating or perspiration is body’s natural way to maintain temperature and keep the body cool in the grueling heat. The sweat glands under the skin release salt containing liquid. The most actively sweating areas of the body include the arms pits, the feet, and on the palms of the hands. A number of things can make you sweat more. For example, physical exercise, rise in temperature or a sudden fit of rage or a feeling of anxiety or embarrassment.
While most people sweat moderately, there are some who have a tendency to sweat profusely and excessively. As if the summer heat is not enough, some people are unfortunate to have overactive sweat glands, a syndrome known as hyperhidrosis. Apart from the discomfort it causes, body odor is another brutal outcome of excessivesweating. It can make a congenial person repulsive by putting off people.
According to International Hyperhidrosis Society there are two to four million sweat glands distributed all over our bodies. The majority of them are “eccrine” sweat glands, which are found in large numbers on the soles of the feet, the palms, the forehead and cheeks, and in the armpits. Eccrine glands secrete an odorless, clear fluid that helps the body to control its temperature by promoting heat loss through evaporation. The other type of sweatgland is called an “apocrine” gland. Apocrine glands are found in the armpits and genital region. They produce a thick fluid. When this fluid comes in contact with bacteria on the skin’s surface, it produces a characteristic potent “body odor“.
The uncontrollable sweating can lead to significant discomfort, both physical and emotional. When excessivesweating affects the hands, feet, and armpits, it’s called primary or focal hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis affects 2 – 3% of the population, yet less than 40% of patients with this condition seek medical advice. If thesweating occurs as a result of another medical condition, it is called secondary hyperhidrosis.
Every year, several people turn up during the summers complaining about excessive perspiration and seeking solutions. Apart from some measures to contain the body odor associated with sweat, a useful and extremely effective solution is onabotulinum toxin type A, popularly known as Botox.
How to contain sweating and odor?
Maintain cleanliness and hygiene of the highest order: As explained above, even though excessive sweating gives you uncomfortable and unkempt appearance, sweat by itself doesn’t generate body odor. It is when this sweatcomes in contact with bacteria that bad odor problem occurs. This is why you must have observed that the initial bout of sweating immediately after bathing doesn’t cause body odor. The latter comes only after you have hadsweat profusely for several rounds. Sweating cases the skin to become damp and this is the best environment for bacteria to prosper. Keeping your clean and as dry as possible is a way to reduce body odor.
Keep your armpits and private parts clean and free of hair. Use anti bacterial soap to thoroughly cleanse yourself daily. Dry yourself well with a towel and wear clean and disinfected clothes. Change shirts twice a day if possible, never repeat wear socks after a day and also wash your towels frequently.
Use Strong Deodrants and Antiperspirants: While deodorants do not prevent sweating, they are helpful in reducing body odor. However, strong anti-perspirants plug the sweat ducts and reduce sweating. When your body senses that the sweat duct is plugged, a feedback mechanism stops the flow. The plugs can stay in place at least 24 hours and then are washed away over time. Prescription and specialty antiperspirants often contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate as an active ingredient. These are among the most effective antiperspirants but can causeskin irritation if instructions aren’t followed precisely. Make sure you consult a dermatologist before using an anti-perspirant.
Iontophoresis: Iontophoresis itechnique is sometimes used on people who’ve tried milder prescriptions like anti-perspirants and have failed to achieve any results. During iontophoresis, a medical device is used to pass a mild electrical current through water contained in pans or tubs as the affected person places his/her hands in it. The mild current also passes through the skin’s surface. It can dramatically reduce sweating on the palms and feet. However, it is not a very viable alternative for treating underarm hyperhidrosis.
Botox: Botox is FDA approved for the treatment of severe underarm sweating, a condition called primary axillary hyperhidrosis. Underarm sweating can not only cause bad odor but also mess up your dresses. Small doses of purified botulinum toxin injected into the underarm temporarily block the nerves that stimulate sweating. For axillary hyperhidrosis, this is the best option as relief lasts 4 – 6 months and helps control body odor. Also for focal hyperhidrosis, like excessive sweating on forehead area or face, Meso Botox is a good solution. Here diluted botox is injected into the dermis to decrease sweating.
Look out for what you eat & drink: Certain ingredients and food items make you perspire more. For example, hot spices like pepper can make you sweat profusely. Similarly excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine can also unplug your sweat ducts. At the same time consumption of certain food elements like onions can pass off their pungent smell into the sweat. It is advisable to avoid these items, drink a lot of water and fruit juices and eat non spicy food.