Solutions to Reduce Excessive Sweating

New treatment device launching this fall

Everybody sweats – it’s a normal, important function that happens when glands in our skin produce a salty liquid to regulate body temperature. An estimated 9.3 million Americans, about 3% of the population, however, experience excessive sweating, known as hyperhidrosis, where their sweat glands produce too much fluid, sometimes four or five times more than is necessary.

Hyperhidrosis can be a debilitating condition that causes physical discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment, stress and social isolation. More than half of those who seek professional help are looking for ways to reduce excessive armpit sweating, but the condition can also affect the hands and feet.

shirts on clothesline

Dee Anna Glaser, MD says, “About 50% of patients have at least one family member with the same issue. We do know that the sweat glands are actually normal, in their number, their size, location, and their ability to respond to normal stimuli.” Glaser is Professor, Vice Chairman and Director of the Cosmetic & Laser Surgery Department of Dermatology at Saint Louis University. She says, “We think the problem occurs when the brain center that controls sweating sends the wrong or too many messages, but why one person’s brain does that and another’s does not, is probably genetic.”

MiraDry is a new device for treating excessive underarm sweating, known as primary axillary hyperhidrosis. The device recently received FDA 510(k) clearance and will be available in doctors’ offices in the U.S. this fall. MiraDry uses focused microwave energy to cause thermal destruction of the sweat glands in the armpits. In clinical studies, 89% of test subjects reported a significant improvement 3 months after MiraDry treatment compared to 54% in the control group who received a sham treatment. After 12 months, 69% of the test subjects were still reporting a significant improvement.

The MiraDry treatment is non-invasive and requires two sessions, each one hour long, performed in doctors’ offices. A little local anesthetic is used to numb the area first, and there may be some localized pain, swelling or altered sensation after treatment, but no serious side effects were reported in the clinical studies. Since sweat glands do not regenerate, nor do we grow more of them after birth, researchers conclude that this treatment will be a long-term solution to address underarm hyperhidrosis.

Other treatments for hyperhidrosis:

1. ) Topical antiperspirants are considered the first line of defense because they are the least expensive option. They stop perspiration by plugging the sweat gland ducts. Clinical strength formulas are available over-the-counter or a dermatologist can prescribe a stronger product. For many though, antiperspirants are ineffective to treat hyperhidrosis.

2.) Botox injections – The FDA approved Botulinum Toxin in 2004 for treating primary axillary hyperhidrosis. Botox injections work well, but they need to be repeated every 6-7 months and can be quite expensive.

3.) Oral medications – Prescription medications, including anticholinergics, beta blockers and clonidine hydrochloride are other treatment options to limit excessive sweating. They work by preventing the stimulation of all sweat glands to limit overall sweating, so they may not be appropriate for treating localized hyperhidrosis of the armpits, hands or feet. Sweating is an important body function to regulate temperature, especially for athletes or those who work outdoors or in hot environments.

4.) Iontophoresis – These devices have a high success rate for treating excessive sweating of the hands and feet, but not the armpits. The treatment involves putting hands or feet into trays of water and the iontophoresis device conducts mild electrical currents through the water. Each session takes from 20-40 minutes and is believed to work by microscopically thickening the outer layer of skin, which blocks the flow of sweat to the surface. The process is repeated every other day for five to ten days and then must be followed up with maintenance treatments ranging from once a week or month, depending on the patient. The devices can be prescribed by doctors for home treatment.

Glaser was the lead investigator for the MiraDry clinical studies. She sees MiraDry as a breakthrough treatment that has been proven in a multi-centered randomized clinical trial and has been cleared by the FDA. She says, “Botox and topicals can be wonderful options for patients, but it will be great to have more options that we can use to tailor treatment to best suit the needs of the patient.”


Click on the MiraDry site to find out more about this treatment option and find a physician locator tool when the product is launched this fall. Visit, the site for the International Hyperhidrosis Society to learn more about hyperhidrosis, treatment alternatives, and where to find help.

Originally published on GE Healthy Outlook,  August 18, 2011. Copyright Jane Langille.

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