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Q: For the last six months or so I've been experiencing excessive sweating in my feet (hyperhydrosis, or so they tell me!). It's extremely embarrassing, to say the least, and it makes work and social situations extremely stressful. One doctor told me it's due to an overactive sympathetic nervous system.  Is there anything I can do to regulate that?

Dr. Donnica:
Hyperhydrosis means "excessive sweating" and in the feet, this can cause embarrassing foot odor. Patients may have excessive sweating anywhere or everywhere.  Sweating is a natural body function needed to regulate body temperature. Sweat is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. In about 1% of the population, the nerves are over-stimulated and too much sweat is produced. It may be episodic or continuous. Profuse sweating may be caused by warm weather, stress, or by an underlying medical condition (e.g. an infection, thyroid problems, malignancies, obesity, or menopausal hot flashes).  It can also be a side effect of certain medicines.  The first step is to identify and treat any known underlying causes.  If the cause is overstimulation of the nervous system, treatment options include antiperspirants, certain drugs, botulinum toxin (Botox™) injections, surgery (thoracoscopic sympathectomy) and iontophoresis (applying low intensity electric current to the hands or feet immersed in an electrolyte solution).  Ask your doctor to recommend a treatment course that's best for you.

Created: 5/13/2002  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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