While occasional hand sweating is normal, if you're looking into how to stop hand sweating, it is probably because it is severe enough that it’s interfering with your life. The medical term for excessive hand sweating is palmar hyperhidrosis, and if you’re suffering from it, you’re not alone. About one percent of the population experiences this condition, which normally presents itself during childhood. Because this extreme hand sweating can occur with none of the usual triggers, i.e. heat or stress, it proves to be a very troublesome condition for the afflicted individual. Fortunately, there are some medical treatments that aim to stop hand sweating, and although only surgery may prove to cure those who have the most severe form of the condition, it is important to try less invasive treatments before resorting to surgery.
- Antiperspirants. Everyone knows a good antiperspirant can help with sweat, but in the case of excessive hand sweating, common commercial antiperspirants are not effective. There are exceptions, though, that are only available by prescription. The best way to use them is to apply to the affected areas before going to bed, as they need to be left on for six hours. While these treatments can prove helpful for milder cases of palmar hyperhidrosis, they may not work as well for more severe cases, as long-term results have proven to be unsatisfactory, and the products can cause strong skin irritation. Nevertheless, antiperspirants are a good place to start when seeking treatment options for hand sweating.
- Iontophoresis. If antiperspirants prove ineffective, you can try a treatment called iontophoresis, during which the hands are placed in a device holding tap water while a small electric current goes through the skin. Iontophoresis can be effective in treating mild and moderate hand sweating, but it is time consuming—treatments are normally done every day for twenty minutes—and in order to continue its effectiveness, it should be done indefinitely. On the plus side, there are few side effects. The skin being treated may become dry and cracked, but the frequency of the treatment can be decreased to avoid this. There may also be slight pain felt when beginning iontophoresis treatments.
- Oral and topical medications. Certain medications classified as anticholinergic drugs can help with excessive hand sweating, but usually a high dosage is needed to see favorable results, and normally high amounts of the drug in your system will cause unpleasant side effects such as dry mouth, blurry vision, constipation and may even impair memory. Some anticholinergic medications can be applied topically, but usually they are not effective due to not being sufficiently absorbed by the skin.
- Surgery. Excessive hand sweating is caused by over activity of the sympathetic nerves that are found in the chest cavity, therefore the goal of surgery is to disrupt these nerves. The surgery, which is called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, is done through small incisions in the underarm area while the patient is under general anesthesia. Depending on the preference of the patient, the sympathetic nerves can be clamped, cut, or partly removed. Generally, clamping is not as effective as the other choices, but the fact that the greater the disturbance the nerves sustain the more chance there will be side effects should be considered. The most common side effect of this surgery is compensatory sweating, which is significant sweating in other areas such as back, legs, abdomen and lower chest. Normally the severity of the compensatory sweating corresponds to the amount of sympathetic nerves that are removed, but fortunately newer techniques have made it possible to diminish the damage to the nerves while still having effective results.
Although surgery may ultimately prove to be the only way to stop hand sweating, it is advisable to first try the less invasive treatments, as your condition may be mild enough to respond to something other than surgery, and often insurance companies will refuse to pay for surgery if other alternatives have not been tried first. If all else fails, surgery may be what your doctor recommends so that you can resume a normal life without constantly worrying about sweaty hands.