Sweating is a natural part of puberty, a time when sweat glands become more active and the body produces more hormones. It’s also how the body cools off in response to heat, exercise or emotional distress. Given the fact that sweating is something everyone experiences, perhaps even more so during adolescence, how would you know if your teen is having problems with it?
Teens experiencing excessive and/or unpredictable sweating may suffer from a condition called hyperhidrosis. While fairly common, the condition can be embarrassing and impact everyday activities, from holding a pen to turning a doorknob. Emotional problems, including social isolation and decreased confidence, can occur. And some teens may face painful and irritating skin problems as a result of excess sweat. These symptoms warrant a trip to the pediatrician, who can provide more information and treatment options.
The cause of hyperhidrosis is not known, although some experts believe it may be tied to overactive sweat glands or genetics. Diagnosing the condition involves a physical exam, including a starch iodine test. Iodine is applied to the sweaty areas (armpits, hands or feet), followed by the application of starch. The combination turns blue in response to excess sweat. A paper test may also be performed. Special paper is placed on the affected area(s) and subsequently weighed to calculate the rate of sweat production. Blood tests may be done to rule out underlying medical conditions, based on the symptoms.
There are various treatment options for hyperhidrosis:
- Prescription strength antiperspirant creams are often the first line of treatment because they are the least invasive. When applied to the affected areas, the antiperspirant is dissolved by sweat and pulled into the pores, forming “plugs” that can stay in place for at least 24 hours.
- Iontopheresis is a treatment that involves using a medical device to pass a mild electrical current through water (shallow pans large enough for hands or feet) and through the skin’s surface. There’s been no significant or serious side effects reported, but patients must adhere to a maintenance schedule.
- Botox has been approved by the FDA for use in treating underarm sweating. The botox is injected into the armpit, just below the surface of the skin, to temporarily block the secretion of the chemical responsible for activating the sweat glands.
- When no other treatments work, surgery to cut the nerve that signals excess sweating or remove the sweat glands may be considered.
In addition to treating the physical symptoms associated with hyperhidrosis, it’s important to address the emotional impact the condition may have on your teen. Be sure to ask your child’s medical doctor about available mental health resources in your community, including possible support groups.
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