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Causes of sweaty hands and how to treat sweaty hands / palmar hyperhidrosis

Excessive, uncontrollable sweating of the hands or palms, is called palmar hyperhidrosis. This medical condition is an extremly stressful, embarrassing, and confidence-wrecking problem. From ruined paperwork to slippery handshakes, sweaty palms can negatively impact your social life, education, and career.

sweaty hand
sweaty hand

Depending on your routine, greeting others with a handshake might be an everyday occurrence. People who don’t experience sweaty hands have no problem extending their hands. But if your hands are constantly clammy and wet, something as simple as shaking hands can bring on anxiety.

If you have frequent sweaty hands or excessive sweating in other parts of your body that is not caused by higher temperatures, you may have hyperhidrosis. This is a condition marked by sweating for no apparent reason. Sweat may soak through your clothes and disrupt your social life. It can be a frustrating problem, but there are ways to get sweating under control.

The excessive sweating associated with hyperhidrosis is normally most active in the hands, feet, armpits, and the groin because of their relatively high concentration of sweat glands.

  • Focal hyperhidrosis: When the excessive sweating is localized. For example, palmoplantar hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating of the palms and soles.
  • Generalized hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating affects the entire body.

Hyperhidrosis may be present from birth or might develop later in life. However, most cases of excessive sweating tend to start during a person’s teenage years.

The condition can be due to an underlying health condition, or have no apparent cause:

  • Primary idiopathic hyperhidrosis: “Idiopathic” means “of unknown cause.” In the majority of cases, the hyperhidrosis is localized.
  • Secondary hyperhidrosis: The person sweats too much because of an underlying health condition, such as obesity, gout, menopause, a tumor, mercury poisoning, diabetes mellitus, or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).

According to the International Hyperhidrosis Association, approximately 2.8 percent of Americans are affected by hyperhidrosis; that’s around 7.8 million people.

For some, hyperhidrosis symptoms are so severe that it becomes embarrassing, causing discomfort and anxiety. The patient’s career choices, free time activities, personal relationships, self-image, and emotional well-being may be affected.

Fortunately, there are several options which can treat symptoms effectively. The biggest challenge in treating hyperhidrosis is the significant number of people who do not seek medical advice, either due to embarrassment or because they do not know that effective treatment exists.

Symptoms of sweaty hands/hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis is defined as sweating that disrupts normal activities. Episodes of excessive sweating occur at least once a week for no clear reason and have an effect on social life or daily activities.

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Simple lifestyle changes can sometimes ease hyperhidrosis’ symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis may include:

  • Clammy or wet palms of the hands
  • Clammy or wet soles of the feet
  • Frequent sweating
  • Noticeable sweating that soaks through clothing

People with hyperhidrosis might experience the following:

  • Irritating and painful skin problems, such as fungal or bacterial infections
  • Worrying about having stained clothing
  • Reluctant to make physical contact
  • Self-conscious
  • Socially withdrawn, sometimes leading to depression
  • Select employment where physical contact or human interaction is not a job requirement
  • Spend a large amount of time each day dealing with sweat, such as changing clothes, wiping, placing napkins or pads under the arms, washing, wearing bulky, or dark clothes
  • Worry more than other people about body odor

Experts are not certain why, but excessive sweating during sleep is not common for people with primary hyperhidrosis (the type not linked to any underlying medical condition).

Causes of sweaty hands/hyperhidrosis

In the case of hyperhidrosis, overactive sweat glands trigger excessive perspiration. This response has nothing to do with indoor or outdoor temperature or your level of physical activity. It doesn’t matter whether the temperature is comfortable or you’re not moving, your hands may sweat profusely.

Some people shrug off mild hand sweating as a minor concern. Although this condition doesn’t always indicate a serious problem and may run in families, excessive sweating is sometimes a symptom of an underlying condition, such as:

  • diabetes
  • menopause/hot flashes
  • low blood sugar
  • overactive thyroid
  • heart attack
  • nervous system problems
  • infections

When sweating is caused by an underlying problem, you may have other symptoms.

See a doctor if sweating is accompanied by chills, chest pain, nausea, lightheadedness, or a fever. Also make a doctor’s appointment if sweating worsens or begins to interrupt your routine.

Natural Home Remedies For Sweaty Hands/hyperhidrosis

If sweaty hands don’t merit a trip to your doctor, several tricks and home remedies can significantly reduce perspiration.

1. Antiperspirants

Antiperspirants are commonly associated with underarm sweating, but these are also effective for stopping perspiration in different areas of the body, including the hands. If you have problems with excessive sweating, apply antiperspirant to your hands to reduce wetness and clamminess.

Start with a regular-strength antiperspirant, and then switch to a clinical-strength antiperspirant if you don’t get the desired results. Antiperspirants work best when you apply them at night because it gives your hands more time to absorb them. These products work by signaling your body to stop sweating.

Examples include:

  • Certain Dri
  • Degree
  • Secret
  • Mitchem

If these don’t work, talk to your doctor about a prescription antiperspirant.

2. Baking soda

Baking Soda whitening teeth

Baking soda is a quick and inexpensive way to reduce sweaty hands. Most people have a box of baking soda in their kitchen or bathroom. The effectiveness of baking soda on cleaning and whitening teeth is well-known, but you may not realize how baking soda functions as an antiperspirant and deodorant. Because baking soda is alkaline, it can reduce sweating and make sweat evaporate quickly. Mix a couple teaspoons of baking soda with water to create a paste. Rub the paste over your hands for about five minutes and then wash your hands. Here are two options:

  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Arm & Hammer
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar

3. Apple cider vinegar

If you have hyperhidrosis, organic apple cider vinegar can keep your sweaty palms dry by balancing pH levels in your body. You can wipe your palms with apple cider vinegar. Leave it on overnight for best effect. You may also want to include 2 tablespoons in your daily diet. It tastes better with honey and water or with a fruit juice.

Here are a few brand options:

  • Viva Naturals
  • Kevala
  • Bragg

4. Sage leaves

sage leaves
sage leaves

Adding sage leaves to your food or sipping sage tea may provide relief from hand sweating. You can also carry dried sage in cloth wrap (sachet) in your pocket, and put your hand around it to absorb and prevent perspiration. The astringent property of sage eliminates excess skin oils and prevents sweating. This property can also reduce odor caused by sweating. For best results, put a handful of sage leaves in water and then soak your hands in the mixture for about 20 minutes.  Another option is drinking sage tea. Since sage is an herb, talk to your doctor before drinking this tea to ensure it doesn’t interact with any medications you’re currently taking.

You can try:

  • Marmara
  • Frontier

You probably already have at least one item in your kitchen or bathroom that can stop sweating in its tracks! If you are experiencing excessive sweating, talk to your doctor. They may suggest other options if your condition doesn’t respond to home remedies.

Diagnosis of Sweaty Hands/hyperhidrosis

Initially, a doctor may try to rule out any underlying conditions, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) by ordering blood and urine tests.

Patients will be asked about the patterns of their sweating – which parts of the body are affected, how often sweating episodes occur, and whether sweating occurs during sleep.

The patient may be asked a series of questions, or have to fill in a questionnaire about the impact of excessive sweating; questions may include:

  • Do you carry anything around to deal with episodes of excessive sweating, such as napkins, antiperspirants, towels, or pads?
  • Does hyperhidrosis affect your behavior or mental state when you are in public?
  • Has hyperhidrosis had any effect on your employment?
  • Have you ever lost a friend due to hyperhidrosis?
  • How often do you change your clothing?
  • How often do you wash or have a shower/bath?
  • How often do you think about excessive sweating?

Thermoregulatory sweat test: a powder which is sensitive to moisture is applied to the skin. When excessive sweating occurs at room temperature, the powder changes color. The patient is then exposed to high heat and humidity in a sweat cabinet, which triggers sweating throughout the whole body.

When exposed to heat, people who do not have hyperhidrosis tend not to sweat excessively in the palms of their hands, but patients with hyperhidrosis do. This test also helps the doctor determine the severity of the condition.

The Treatment of Sweaty Hands/hyperhidrosis

The first line-of-defense against sweaty palms is an antiperspirant. That’s right, you CAN use antiperspirants on your hands. Antiperspirants are non-invasive, topical (applied on top of your skin), and available in a number of different strengths including “regular” over-the-counter products, “clinical strength” over-the-counter products, and prescription products. You may have already tried the mildest formulations (“regular” over-the-counter products) and likely didn’t get much relief. The next step is to try a stronger formulation. Learn about key choices on our Fan Fave products page.  All companies listed on the Fan Fave products page proudly support the International Hyperhidrosis Society, have good customer reviews and offer global shipping.

But before you work your way up to even stronger formulations (prescriptions) we suggest that you make sure you are using products to optimize their effectiveness and–importantly–minimize irritation. In fact, how you use antiperspirants is so important, we have a whole section dedicated to it, but the most important tidbits are:

  • Apply antiperspirants at night before bed
  • Apply to completely dry skin
  • Never wrap or occlude your hands when you have antiperspirants on them. Doing that is a sure-fire way to seriously irritate your skin.

If antiperspirants don’t give you the palmar hyperhidrosis relief you need, your next option is iontophoresis. When the right device is used, and used correctly, iontophoresis has been proven to have impressive success rates (81% reduction in sweating according to a published study) for people with sweaty palms.

Read all about it on our iontophoresis page, but here’s a summary:

  • A medical device is used to perform iontophoresis in a doctor’s office and/or at home.
  • The device utilizes pans of water to conduct a mild electrical current through the skin’s surface.
  • It’s not entirely understood how or why iontophoresis works, but it’s believed that the electric current and mineral particles in the water work together to microscopically thicken the outer layer of the skin, which blocks the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Once this sweat output is blocked or interrupted, sweat production on the palms and soles is, often suddenly and dramatically, “turned off”.
  • Your doctor can write the prescription for the device which you then provide to the manufacturer when you are ready to purchase your own.
  • Always mention the International Hyperhidrosis Society when you place your order to be certain you are given the best price and service. You can also check our Fan Fave Products page to see if there are any coupon codes available.

Another treatment option for sweaty palms is Botox (also known as onabotulinumtoxin A). An experienced medical professional can inject Botox into your palms to dramatically reduce sweating. Effects are lasting (about 6 months) but the injections can be painful. To help make the injections more comfortable, experienced medical professionals are turning to a simple icing and/or vibration technique, but be aware that discomfort during injections is a potential drawback of Botox treatment for palmar hyperhidrosis.

The use of Botox for the treatment of hyperhidrosis is most effective when performed by a healthcare professional who has received special training from the International Hyperhidrosis Society and who has experience with the procedure. To find a physician, nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA) in your area who is familiar with hyperhidrosis treatments, use our Physician Finder. And if you want to find one who has attended our Master Class in Hyperhidrosis, look for the “IHhS-Educated” notation in the Physician Finder search results. You can also use the Advanced Search button to search for only those who have received training by the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

While most people find that antiperspirants, iontophoresis, Botox injections, or a custom combination of these are enough to manage excessive hand sweating, there are those who seek a more definitive course of action. If less invasive treatments have proven to be insufficient, endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) may be considered as a last resort. ETS has significant risks associated with it, however, particularly a side effect called compensatory sweating (irreversible excessive sweating on large areas of the body) and should only be used in extreme cases after a thorough trial of all other options.

As of now, the options for treating palmar hyperhidrosis are not ideal. That’s why we continue to advocate for hyperhidrosis research and donations. Both are vital if we are to finally find a safe cure for palmar hyperhidrosis.

Complications of Sweaty Hands/hyperhidrosis

If hyperhidrosis is not treated, it can lead to complications.

  • Nail infections: Especially toenail infections.
  • Warts: Skin growths caused by the HPV (human papillomavirus).
  • Bacterial infections: Especially around hair follicles and between the toes.
  • Heat rash (prickly heat, miliaria): An itchy, red skin rash that often causes a stinging or prickling sensation. Heat rash develops when sweat ducts become blocked and perspiration is trapped under the skin.
  • Psychological impact: Excessive sweating can affect the patient’s self-confidence, job, and relationships. Some individuals may become anxious, emotionally stressed, socially withdrawn, and even depressed.

On average, a person with hyperhidrosis seeks medical help after living with the condition for 9 years. It is important to spread the word that the symptoms of excessive sweating can be effectively treated.

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