Dubai: At least one per cent of high school students in each class complain about sweating excessively, a medical specialist told Gulf News.
Their inability to hold a pen to take notes and their reluctance to mingle with others due to bad body odour are just some of the common problems these students face, he said.
Sweating excessively throughout the year irrespective of the weather and without any exertion is not normal, said Dr Babu Shersad, Consultant Internist and Nephrologist at Amsa Renal Care. He added that many who suffer from this medical condition are usually unaware it can be treated.
“The genetic medical condition, hyperhidrosis, is present from birth and is not associated with any other physical or psychological disorder. It causes excessive sweating in localised areas in the body — mainly the hands, feet, armpits or groin. It starts through childhood and goes unnoticed until complications appear and it starts interfering with social relationships,” he said.
Dr Shersad explained that the body has a natural mechanism to cool down and keep itself moist through evaporation, especially during summer when temperatures rise, and during physical exercise, but when sweat glands are producing sweat at a high rate in all conditions. When this starts interfering with daily activities, it should not be ignored, he said.
“Sweating is a cause of concern to peoples’ personal and social lives. In severe cases, the patient is unable to grasp anything securely with the hand such as for example, a pen, steering wheel, mobile phone.
Some patients end up with macerated skin with burning and itching or fungal infections in the groin area due to continuous sweating. Others may have symptoms severe enough to withdraw themselves from social interaction,” he said.
Students suffering from hyperhidrosis, he said, need active management and medical treatment to avoid more complications because the condition starts affecting them psychologically at school or college.
“The fear of body odour starts causing them low-self esteem and hits their self-confidence. Students may get bullied or mocked. In schools and colleges, they are picked on or considered to have poor hygiene. In this case, they can have more active treatment under the supervision of a dermatologist,” he said.
Cold and clammy hands, foul sweating footwear, dehydration, and skin infections in armpits and groin are some of the complications Dr Sharsad has seen in students. “Parents of students have complained of such issues in their teenage children and confirmed their children feel reluctant to shake hands with others. Anxiety from this condition leads to aggravation of sweating”
Sometimes, abnormal and excessive sweating can be caused as a result of diseases like diabetes, fever, hyperthyroidism, gout, syncope and angina, explained Dr Shersad and the specific circumstances in which the sweating happens give clues to the causative condition. It is also common to find excessive sweating in menopausal women due to hormonal changes, he said.
“Around 20 per cent of patients suffering from these diseases describe they are drenched in sweat. Such conditions require specific treatment for the underlying cause rather than sweating itself. Rarely, some specific conditions cause sweating in localised areas as seen in nerve injuries and neuropathies.”
During summers, sweating is heightened as a normal physiological reaction to the humidity and heat, overwork, anger, nervousness and pain, said Dr Chacko George, internal medicine specialist at Ras Al Khaimah Hospital, and this is not linked to a medical condition.
“When exposed to heat or when switching between different weather conditions, too much sweating is natural. Bad odour from the feet or armpits is a common result of that, especially if a person hasn’t taken proper hygienic measures, like regular baths and using deodorants,” said Dr George. “Bad odour reflects prolonged sweating or bacterial breakdown of sweat which produce bad smelling substances.”
Adequate hygiene measures
Regular baths, change of undergarments, using deodorants and talcum powder in areas that are sweaty and remaining in cool environments were some of the solutions recommended by both doctors.
Dr Shersad said sweating during the summer helps improve heat tolerance and people must learn how to deal with it by avoiding triggers and keeping towels handy. “Hot and spicy food will lead to dilation of blood vessels under the skin and increases sweating. Caffeine, nicotine and some medicines can also cause excessive sweating. Many patients found great relief after using antiperspirants, and doing yoga and meditation,” he said.
“Adequate hydration with fluids should be ensured. Use of loose cotton absorbent clothing compared to synthetic non-absorbent material also helps combat the effects of sweating, and wearing open shoes are more preferable during summer,” said Dr Shersad.
He also said that “adequately aerated or air-conditioned classrooms are advisable in schools. Students can be encouraged to freshen up during their breaks.”
Treatment for Hyperhidrosis
Dr Babu Shersad, consultant internist and nephrologist at Amsa Renal Care said there are a variety of physical measures as well as major surgical measures to curb side-effects of hyperhidrosis.
“Such treatment should be under the guidance of a dermatologist. Deodorants may not be sufficient for these patients. Antiperspirant agents are helpful, but may cause skin irritation if too strong,” he said.
Some of the main treatments for this medical condition were listed by Dr Chacko George, internal medicine specialist at Ras Al Khaimah Hospital:
“Over-the-counter prescription can decrease sweating e.g. anti-cholinergic or electric current treatment called Iontophoresis, Botox for underarm sweating is also a common treatment for this condition. As for surgical options, it includes removal of sweat glands in the area of excess sweat or thoracic sympathectomy, where a surgeon cuts and destroys the nerves responsible for the excess sweat.”