Summer Is Sweatin' Time

Man wipes sweat from face with hand
Everyone perspires, especially during the hot summer months. But for some people, excess perspiration can be a problem. The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall has tips on how you can curb excess perspiration and advice on when you should see a doctor about the problem.

Marshall says sweating is a very normal bodily function. It's the way that the body regulates the temperature when you're exercising and when it's hot outside. You also tend to sweat when you're feeling anxious or nervous. The most common places you sweat are the under the arms, soles of the feet and the palms hands.

How do you know if you're sweating too much? It's a personal thing, Marshall points out. Some people may think that the same amount of sweat is normal; some people may think it's a lot. But the bottom line is that if your sweating makes you uncomfortable and interferes with your job or your social life, you should talk to your doctor about it.

Some possible causes of excess perspiration:

  • Hyperhidrosis There are nerve endings that regulate the amount of sweat produced by your sweat glands. With hyperhidrosis, those nerves are overactive. About one percent of Americans suffer from this problem.
  • Overactive thyroid: People with overactive thyroids, or hyperthyroidism can sweat excessively.
  • Menopause: Women who are going through menopause usually complain of "hot flashes" or "night sweats." This is a big problem for many women.

    Some Ways To Curb Excess Perspiration:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes: Tight-fighting clothes tend to trap body heat, causing you to sweat.
  • Wear natural fibers: Unlike manmade fibers such as polyester, fabrics made with cotton breathe.
  • Use talcum or anti-fungal powder: Powders can help absorb moisture.

    If none of these work, there are medical options that are available.

  • Oral medications: There are a number of medications such as atropine which help block the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. The drawback is that some of these drugs can also dry up other bodily secretions (for instance, they can cause dry mouth). Also, if your perspiration tends to be triggered by stress or an emotional event, blood pressure medications called beta-blockers or sedatives called benzodiazepines may help.
  • Electrode therapy: This procedure, called iontophoresis, involves applying a direct current to the area of excessive sweating for 20 to 30 minutes a day. You can do it at home. It's time-consuming, and studies are limited, but they suggest it can really help with excessive sweating — particularly of the hands and feet.
  • Botox: Botox, best known for its cosmetic uses to reduce wrinkles, actually can be injected into areas of excessive sweating. It paralyzes sweat gland nerves and can last for a number of months. However, it can be quite painful.
  • Surgery: Some people have such severe sweating and have tried so many things without relief that they opt for more invasive procedures, such as surgery to remove the sweat glands or surgery to sever nerves to the sweat glands.

    Finally, do anti-perspirants really work? What type should you use?

    If you feel as though you have a problem with excessive perspiration, Marshall says, the first thing to know is that you need an anti-perspirant, not a deodorant. A deodorant is designed just to mask smells, whereas an anti-perspirant is designed to reduce the amount of sweating by blocking the opening of sweat glands. Over-the-counter products usually only work for mild cases, so if you don't find relief, you can ask your doctor for a prescription-strength anti-perspirant.