Sweaty hands are annoying and embarrassing, particularly if you use a computer keyboard or your sweat smudges ink and wets paper. You can disguise sweaty hands to some extent by smoothing back your hair – so that you wipe your hands on your hair – before you shake hands with anyone. But it can be embarrassing if you leave sweaty handprints on anything you touch.
What you can do for sweaty hands
What doctors can do for sweaty hands
- It involves placing your hands in a bath of tap water, through which a very small electrical current is passed for about 15 minutes.
- You may find it a slightly uncomfortable, tingling or burning sensation, and skin irritation can occur.
- It is not suitable if you could be pregnant or have a heart pacemaker.
- At first, treatment is every few days, so it is time consuming, but it is gradually decreased to once every 3 or 4 weeks.
- If you find it works well, you might consider buying the equipment to use at home (they are available from sweating.com). It is expensive, so you should ask the physiotherapist’s advice. (Obviously, you should not try to make home-made equipment, because you could electrocute yourself.)
- Sympathectomy is often done to control excessive sweating under the arms, but it is 95% successful for sweating of the hands.
- The result is immediate; you wake from the anaesthetic with dry, warm hands.
- The long-term results seem good; after about 14 years about 73% of people are still satisfied with the result (Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin 2005;43:77–80). However, it has a major drawback which is that the body may compensate by increasing sweating elsewhere – usually the trunk, but sometimes the feet – so you may end up swapping sweaty hands for a sweaty abdomen. This happens in between one-third and three-quarters of people who have had the operation. In 1 in 100, this ‘compensatory’ sweating is very severe, and they regret they had the operation. Unfortunately, the operation cannot be reversed.
- Like any other surgical operation, the actual operation has risks so is not to be undertaken lightly.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Monday, November 26th 2012
Dr Phil Hammond asks why do we sweat, why do some people smell more than others, and what can we do about it. Find out more by clicking on the video below.
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Each person has 3-4 million sweat glands
At rest in a cool environment, a normal person loses about half a litre of sweat in a day
The sweat glands are capable of producing 12 litres of sweat in 24 hours
Hippopotamus sweat is red. It contains sunscreen and is also antiseptic (Nature 2004;429:363)
We can smell the sweat of a giraffe from a quarter of a mile away. The smell repels ticks (New Scientist 1 February 2003)
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