As readers may already know, primary idiopathic hyperhidrosis (Hh or excessive sweating) is a condition characterized by uncontrollable, extreme, episodic, unexpected sweating beyond what is typically considered “normal” or necessary to regulate body temperature or as a reaction to stress or stimuli. In research, individuals with Hh have been shown to sweat at least four or five times more than what is considered “average” (Hund, Kinkelin, Naumann, & Hamm, 2002). Statistics released in 2016 show that there are approximately 15.3 million individuals living with Hh in the United States (4.8% of the population [Doolittle, Walker, Mills, & Thurston, 2016]). Not only is Hh relatively common, it is also debilitating, with 75% of those with excessive sweating saying the condition has had negative impacts on their social life, sense of well-being, and emotional and mental health. In addition, 35% say that they sacrifice many important things in their lives because of excessive sweating (Doolittle et al., 2016). Furthermore, the prevalence of anxiety and depression has been shown to be higher among those with Hh than those without: anxiety, 21.3% with Hh versus 7.5% without; and depression, 27.2% with Hh versus 9.7% without (Bahar et al., 2016). In other research, Hh’s impact on quality of life was found to be equal to or greater than that of psoriasis, severe acne, Darier’s disease, Hailey–Hailey disease, vitiligo, and chronic pruritus (Swartling, Naver, & Lindberg, 2001).
Recognizing the far-reaching impacts of this often misunderstood yet relatively common, embarrassing, and occupationally challenging condition, it is important for patients of all ages and care providers alike to have access to a supportive, informative community. Founded in 2003 by a team of respected experts in Hh research, the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS) is the only independent, nonprofit, global organization working to improve quality of life among those affected by excessive sweating. The society’s mission is to reduce the symptoms, anxiety, and social stigma associated with excessive sweating by improving the information, advocacy, and treatments available. Throughout, IHhS strives to serve the entire Hh community—from pediatric and adolescent sufferers and their parents all the way to healthcare providers and practice staff. The IHhS approach is holistic, and through dynamic communication with sufferers, IHhS has a real-time perspective on where patients’ needs are being met and not met.
As part of this mission, IHhS promotes Hh research and educates healthcare professionals regarding best practices in Hh diagnosis and management. IHhS also raises awareness about the condition’s emotional, social, and practical impacts and advocates for improved access to effective treatments, all while increasing public understanding of this debilitating medical condition. From comprehensive treatment information to educational and inspiring blogs and social media, IHhS provides practical tools to empower satisfying care of the whole patient population with Hh. Its Web site (www.SweatHelp.org) receives approximately 4,000 visitors daily, and its blog has 53,000 subscribers.
You can learn more about Hh and IHhS’ work through SweatHelp.org’s easily accessible online content, which includes the following:
- Comprehensive discussions about normal sweating, excessive sweating, and Hh.
- A “physician” finder to help patients locate healthcare providers (including nurse practitioners) who understand and treat excessive sweating. Nurse practitioners are encouraged to register their practices.
- Updated information regarding excessive sweating treatment options.
- Insurance and reimbursement tools (including downloadable forms) to help patients work with their care providers and third-party payers to secure financial assistance for necessary treatments.
- Practical tips to make the most of discussions about bothersome sweating.
- Information about Hh clinical trials.
- A news blog that keeps subscribers current on Hh events, research results, and more.
- Patient education tear-pad/tabletop display for waiting rooms and offices (visit https://sweathelp.org/education-and-resources/order-brochures.html).
You can also connect with the IHhS on Facebook via SweatingStopsHere and Twitter @WeKnowSweat.
REAL LIFE WITH HH
The IHhS often receives e-mails, social media messages, and letters from Hh sufferers describing their daily struggles living with this condition. Examples include the following:
- A professional flutist who frequently rusts her expensive instrument because of palmar excessive sweating and practices while standing in a tub of cold water.
- Workers in professional settings who bring identical outfits to the office so they can change out of sweaty clothes throughout the day without colleagues noticing.
- A mother who had her baby slip out of hands.
- A high school student who could not complete her SATs within the time limit because of the time-consuming and distracting nature of her Hh.
- A student-athlete who gave up a potentially successful tennis career because she could not maintain a grip on her racket.
- Plantar Hh sufferers experiencing slips and falls related to wet feet.
- Women with craniofacial sweating who cannot wear makeup or style their hair.
- Families who live with anxiety that their children will also develop Hh.
It is possible to help these patients find relief, and doing so can be very rewarding as this dermatologist and IHhS co-founder attests:
“I’ve been a dermatologist for 36 years and for the last 15 years or so I’ve been extremely interested in treating patients who have hyperhidrosis,” says Dr. David Pariser, Secretary and Founding Member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society and former president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “The reason I spend so much time and effort treating these patients is because dermatology professionals can improve the quality of life of patients with hyperhidrosis more than they can improve quality of life of patients with nearly any other problem including the worst psoriasis, eczema, acne, and even skin cancers. Hyperhidrosis is the #1 dermatological disease in terms of negatively affecting a person’s quality of life but is also #1 in having the most dramatically positive impact when treated.”
Bahar R., Zhou P., Liu Y., Huang Y., Phillips A., Lee T. K., … Zhou Y. (2016). The prevalence of anxiety and depression in patients with or without hyperhidrosis (HH). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
, 75(6), 1126–1133. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2016.07.001
Doolittle J., Walker P., Mills T., Thurston J. (2016). Hyperhidrosis: An update on prevalence and severity in the United States. Archives of Dermatological Research
, 308(10), 743–749. doi:10.1007/s00403-016-1697-9
Hund M., Kinkelin I., Naumann M., Hamm H. (2002). Definition of axillary hyperhidrosis by gravimetric assessment. Archives of Dermatology
, 138(4), 539–541. doi:10.1001/archderm.138.4.539
Swartling C., Naver H., Lindberg M. (2001). Botulinum A toxin improves life quality in severe primary focal hyperhidrosis. European Journal of Neurology
, 8(3), 247–252. doi:10.1046/j.1468-1331.2001.00207.x