Sweat is something that most people hardly think about. It’s just something that happens when it’s hot, when your working out, or sometimes when feeling a strong emotion. But for people suffering from hyperhidrosis, there is a constant worry about sweat. It pervades all aspects of their lives, to a degree that may seem shocking to those not afflicted with the condition.
Here are some of the many ways that hyperhidrosis can impact one’s quality of life.
Difficulty accomplishing simple tasks
Hyperhidrosis, especially in the palms, can make day-to-day activities more difficult. When your hands are slippery with sweat, keeping a grip on anything is challenging. Ditto for navigating touch screens and turning doorknobs. It can even be dangerous for jobs that require tools, such as handling hot pans and knives for cooks and hospital staff, using sharp and heavy equipment for technicians and engineers, conducting fine laboratory work for those in the science and medical fields, handling paper and money for office workers, among others.
People who sweat from their head can also find it difficult to see from time to time as the sweat drips down their forehead into their eyes. They need to constantly wipe away the sweat, or else wear something that will absorb the moisture. These distractions can make driving dangerous.
Those that suffer from armpit sweating (or axillary hyperhidrosis) often find it very embarrassing and constantly fear inadvertently putting up their arms up in case someone sees their sweat marks. They often report needing to be very choosy about the clothes they wear and activities they partake in.
Physical discomfort and inconvenience
With hyperhidrosis, even mild physical activity can cause one to sweat as if they’ve run a marathon. Arriving to work or school sticky and wet after a commute is uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many lug around spare clothes, towels, handkerchiefs, antiperspirants, and deodorants to make the rest of the day more bearable.
Accumulation of moisture in the armpits or in the groin area can lead to chafing, pain, and irritation to the skin. It is also a predisposing factor for bacterial growths that cause unpleasant odours at best and inflammation at worst. To prevent this from happening, many people who suffer from hyperhidrosis need to think of workarounds. These take time and resources, which lowers their quality of life considerably.
Limitations on lifestyle
Studies on the effect of hyperhidrosis on patients show that the condition dictates many aspects of their lifestyle.
This is particularly obvious in choosing what they wear. People with hyperhidrosis gravitate towards darker colours that help make sweat marks less obvious. They would rather opt for breathable fabrics and fits. People who sweat from their feet do not wear flip flops or sandals to avoid slipping out of them. Those who perspire from their head will avoid wearing make-up because it slides off. This hampers their self-confidence and ability to express themselves.
Hyperhidrosis can also affect the activities patients choose to engage in. Since heat and physical exercise can trigger sweating, those with hyperhidrosis tend to minimise working out or going outdoors, especially when it involves other people. It is also a factor to consider when choosing a career, with some hyperhidrosis patients opting for office jobs in air-conditioned rooms just so they can avoid physical excursions.
Fear of touch-related social interactions
Touching is a normal part of building relationships, but it is something that hyperhidrosis patients dread. This fear usually stems from previous social interactions when they have been on the receiving end of awkwardness and disgust for their sweat. People with palmar sweating avoid shaking hands and giving high fives, while those with generalised sweating shy away from hugs and crowded places. Fear of other people seeing their perspiration leads many to avoid social gatherings altogether, affecting interpersonal relationships with both family and friends. This is particularly an issue when attempting to build romantic relationships, as intimate physical contact is expected.
Unhealthy levels of stress
People with hyperhidrosis worry all the time about their condition. It’s the little things, like stressing about the smell of their socks when they take off their shoes in public, handing sweat-soaked money when paying for purchase, leaving noticeable sweat marks on surfaces. These small worries add up over time and drastically affect their self-esteem. This can have a pervasive effect on everything from social life to career opportunities.
In addition, a good number of people who have hyperhidrosis do not know that treatment is available. There is not much attention given to the condition even among healthcare providers. This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness at the situation, and resignation to spend the rest of their life sweating excessively and suffering for it. However, modern medical treatments can improve the lives of sufferers of hyperhidrosis drastically, and in most cases, back to normal levels of sweating.
Hyperhidrosis can have a negative impact on patients’ lives. However, seeking care from a dermatologist to learn about options for treatments is the first step to overcoming this otherwise troubling condition. Seeking therapy for mental health impacts may also be appropriate for some. This can help lessen the anxiety they feel about sweating.
If you are experiencing any mental health concerns, please see your GP or mental health professional.
Purpose of this information
The information presented on this website and in this article is for general information and example purposes only, does not contain health advice specific for users and must not be relied on for that purpose. Please see your GP, dermatologist or other health care professional for specific advice.
Kamudoni, P., Mueller, B., Halford, J. et al. The impact of hyperhidrosis on patients’ daily life and quality of life: a qualitative investigation. Health Qual Life Outcomes 15, 121 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12955-017-0693-x
Strutton, D. R., Kowalski, J. W., Glaser, D. A., & Stang, P. E. (2004). US prevalence of hyperhidrosis and impact on individuals with axillary hyperhidrosis: results from a national survey. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 51(2), 241–248. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2003.12.040