Our bodies have millions of glands that produce an odorless liquid called sweat, which is responsible for regulating body temperature. Heat, exercise, stress, illness, and eating spicy foods are all common triggers that activate these sweat glands. However, some people have overactive sweat glands that produce excessive amounts of sweat constantly, without a trigger. This is a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis, which affects approximately 5% of the global population.
Hyperhidrosis can be generalized or localized, meaning it can affect the entire body or just certain areas. The areas most commonly affected by hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) are the hands, feet, and underarms. While no cure exists, many treatments exist to alleviate the symptoms of the condition, including antiperspirants, injections, prescription oral and topical medications, and tap water iontophoresis.
Tap water iontophoresis for the treatment of palmar (hand) and plantar (foot) hyperhidrosis can be traced back at least as far back as the 1940s. Since its introduction, it has undergone significant technological advancements and developments, and it can now effectively be used to treat other parts of the body affected by hyperhidrosis, namely the underarms. It has been consistently ranked as one of the safest, easiest, and most effective ways to treat hyperhidrosis, and home-use devices have made it easier than ever before to treat excessive sweating at home.
To better understand iontophoresis (pronounced eye-on-toe-fo-ree-sis), we can start by breaking down the word itself (no worries—it is simpler than it sounds!):
During tap water iontophoresis treatment, a medical device delivers a mild electrical current to the treatment area, which is slightly submerged in water (hands and feet) or covered by a thoroughly dampened sponge (underarms). The minerals and electrolytes found in tap water help the current efficiently travel through the water and onto the skin, delivering proper and even treatment. The passage of this mild electrical current to the affected skin temporarily stops sweat production.
To put it very simply, the medical device is plugged into a power source that produces an electrical current that travels via the tap water, reaching the conductive electrodes that are submerged in water and touching the skin. A protective barrier, such as a towel or sponge is used to make treatment more comfortable by protecting the skin from coming into direct contact with the electrodes.
Iontophoresis treatment only requires a home-use medical device, like Dermadry, and some tap water. Setup is simple and requires the user to set up the device, plug it in, and add tap water, which only takes about a minute to do. Below are photos of the Dermadry device treating the three zones most commonly affected by hyperhidrosis: the hands, feet, and underarms.
Tap water iontophoresis is a non-invasive and drug-free way to treat hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis has no known cause. However, it is widely believed to be the result of an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which sends too many signals to the sweat glands, causing the body to produce excessive amounts of sweat. Hyperhidrosis sufferers sweat 4-5 times more than the average person and significantly exceeds what is needed for the body to maintain and regulate its temperature. Essentially, the sweat glands of hyperhidrosis sufferers are always switched ‘on’, and no ‘trigger’ (such as a rise in body temperature during exercise) is needed to activate these sweat glands.
There are a couple of well-regarded theories that attempt to explain the efficacy of tap water iontophoresis in the treatment of hyperhidrosis, but the exact way it stops sweating is unknown. The most common theory is that it blocks sympathetic nerve transmission, meaning it neutralizes the signal between the nerve and sweat glands, which reduces or completely inhibits sweat production in the treated area. Other theories suggest that iontophoresis causes an obstruction of the sweat gland, with the treatment creating a type of temporary “plug” in the sweat glands due to ion deposition, and some theorize that it is a decrease in pH level as a result of an accumulation of hydrogen ions.
An increasing amount of clinical studies are done every year that demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of tap water iontophoresis in the treatment of primary hyperhidrosis. Success rates in clinical trials generally range between 90-100% of patients in the sample group.
Studies have consistently proven that iontophoresis is a simple, safe, economic, and effective treatment option for hyperhidrosis. It is a treatment option that medical professionals often suggest to their patients when conventional antiperspirants are not working. It is the preferred treatment option of many and is generally prescribed prior to toxin injections, surgical intervention, and long-term drug therapy. It is a natural, drug-free, needle-free, and non-invasive treatment option for hyperhidrosis that can provide long-term results with minimal side effects. It can effectively treat varying levels of hyperhidrosis, from mild to severe cases.
Iontophoresis treatment is divided into two stages: the initial phase and the maintenance phase. Treatment frequency depends on the level of hyperhidrosis:
With Dermadry’s home-use iontophoresis device, each treatment is just 15 minutes (underarms) to 20 minutes (hands and feet). During the initial phase, Dermadry recommends that the patient performs between 3-5 treatments per week for 1-2 weeks (for cases of mild hyperhidrosis), 2-3 weeks (for cases of moderate hyperhidrosis) or 4-6 weeks (for cases of severe hyperhidrosis).
Once the patient has obtained their desired level of dryness, a maintenance schedule must be maintained to upkeep results. Take a look at Dermadry’s suggested treatment frequency plan below:
Dryness can be achieved with as little as one 15-20 treatment every few weeks. Patients should use the highest comfortable current strength to optimize their results.
Iontophoresis is a suitable treatment option for the majority of people, but before starting treatment, it’s important to read all contraindications, to know if it’s right for you. All contraindications and potential side effects of iontophoresis are listed on Dermadry’s website. View them here and learn more about Dermadry’s home-use tap water iontophoresis devices by shopping our product range below.