4 Non-Surgical Treatments For Sweaty Armpits


Extra Strength Antiperspirants

Almost all antiperspirant products manufactured today contain some quantities of an aluminum compound as the active ingredient (eg. aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum hydroxybromide etc.).

When this aluminium based solution is applied to the armpits it temporarily plugs the sweat glands preventing the sweat from escaping. The stronger the aluminium solution the more effective it will be at stopping sweat.

Deodorants have only tiny amounts of aluminum content and are fine for perfuming the armpits but not really a serious sweat stopper. On the other hand, clinical strength antiperspirants which can be purchased over-the-counter without prescription are much more effective as sweat blockers and contain up to 25% aluminum content.

Prescription strength antiperspirants are fractionally stronger containing up to 30% aluminum content. There really isn't much difference between the two, and for most people, either clinical or prescription strength is all that's required and no other treatment is necessary.

Usually it's best to apply just before bedtime when the sweat glands are less active and the solution can fully soak into the skin overnight. You may suffer from 'itchy armpits' which should lessen over time, but If the itchiness persists then a mild (0.5%) hydrocortisone cream applied to the affected area should bring quick relief.

Iontophoresis 'Electric Shock' treatment

If antiperspirants aren't working for you then Iontophoresis 'shock' treatment could be the answer. The affected areas are stimulated with a mild electrical current using an Iontophoresis machine. Although it's primarily used to treat sweaty hands and feet it can also be used to treat excessive underarm sweating.

For underarm application, the patient places a wet pad containing an electrode under each armpit. The electrical current is then slowly increased until the patient feels a tingling sensation, something akin to 'pins and needles'. This electrical stimulation temporarily blocks the sweat glands and reduces underarm sweating.

Each manufacturer has his own set of instructions to follow but the general recommendation is to treat the underarms daily for the first week, with each session lasting between 20 - 45 minutes (depending on the type of device used). The sessions can then be tapered off to bi-weekly, weekly and eventually monthly, depending on individual requirements.

Typical results for dramatically reduced sweating in the hands, feet and underarms are between 80% - 90%, but note that these are estimated averages and not results from clinical studies.

The Three Types of Iontophoresis Devices

Battery powered devices: These are relatively inexpensive to buy and for your money you generally get what you pay for. They are NOT as powerful or as effective in treating hyperhidrosis as the plug-in mains powered devices.

Plug-in devices (direct current): These are professional quality machines and are ideal for treating sweaty hands and feet but they may be somewhat uncomfortable to use in other more sensitive areas of the body.

Plug-in devices (pulsed current): These are recommended for treating underarms or other sensitive areas such as the torso, face and neck (as well as hands and feet). If you have sensitive skin then you should consider a pulsed current device - this is newer technology and pulsed devices typically have more features and programs than those found in direct current devices.

For more information visit the Iontophoresis specialists website at iontocentre.com and in particular have a look at the Idromed and Hidrex (pulsed current) devices:

  • Idromed 5 PS Iontophoresis Machine (pulsed current)
  • Hidrex PSP 1000 Professional Iontophoresis Machine (direct and pulsed current)

The initial cost is quite high (approaching $1,000) but these are professional quality machines which are used by doctors in clinics throughout Europe. They are also perfectly suited for home based treatments.

Botox Injections

Botox is always mentioned in the media, especially gossip magazines which revel in spotting middle aged celebrities who have undergone anti-aging facial treatment. It's the brand name for the neurotoxic protein called botulinum toxin, a popular cosmetic medicine primarily used for smoothing out the skin by removing brow furrows, wrinkles and facial creases.

It's a very versatile medical tool, and in addition to cosmetic and several other uses it has also been approved by the FDA to treat severe underarm sweating (axillary hyperhidrosis) in circumstances where maximum strength antiperspirants simply don't work well enough.

Although Botox is also used in treating sweaty hands and feet, It can be quite a painful experience for some patients and the results somewhat mediocre, Its greatest success is in reducing armpit sweating.

To minimize any discomfort from multiple needle injections treatment can be done under a local anaesthetic, and takes between 20 - 30 minutes to administer. Fifty units of 'Botulinum toxin type A' is injected into approximately 20 - 25 spots in each armpit. The toxin works by shutting down the nerve endings and blocking the nerves from stimulating the sweat glands, thereby providing temporary relief to sufferers.

The Upside and Downside to Botox Treatment

The percentage success rate is quite high - clinical studies show that 82% of patients treated with botox achieved between 50% - 75% reduction in excessive underarm sweating which lasted on average for 6 months. It begins taking effect within 3 - 4 days following treatment and reaches its full effectiveness usually within 2 - 3 weeks.

But there is a downside - It's a costly procedure, Botox injections for both underarms will cost anywhere between $800 - $1,500 and possibly more in some clinics. You also have to factor in that you will need at least 2 treatments each year to maintain optimum sweat reduction . For some patients the longevity of the treatment may only last for 4 months and they will need 3 treatment sessions each year.

A more recent alternative to Botox is Dysport (also a botulinum Type A toxin ). Side by side they are pretty much alike and cost of treatment is the same, although some would say that the effects of Dysport lasts a little longer. But Dysport does have one significant advantage, it takes effect much quicker than Botox.

Prescription Oral Medication (Robinul)

Anticholinergic drugs such as Robinul are extremely effective in reducing generalized sweating in hyperhydrosis sufferers who sweat all over, and severe compensatory sweating following underarm surgical treatment.

For many people taking Robinul has resulted in an average 50% reduction in generalized sweating. For some the success rate in reduced localized sweating such as sweaty hands (palmar hyperhidrosis) has been even higher at 70% - 80%.

Robinul helps to prevent the stimulation of sweat glands by blocking the transmission of the chemical messenger (acetylcholine) responsible for sweating, thereby reducing body perspiration. It's a prescription drug and must be taken 2 to 3 times each day on an empty stomach, but if you miss your daily dosage the sweating returns more or less immediately.

Unfortunately it does have some unpleasant side-effects but they are manageable. Almost everyone taking this medication complains of dry mouth and the need to drink fluids more often to compensate for this, other side-effects include dry eyes, sore throat, dry nasal passage and blurred vision.

But for those who have tried almost everything, every other available treatment aside from surgery, the benefits of taking Robinul greatly outweighs the side effects.

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