How is Hyperhidrosis Diagnosed?
Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by excessive sweating that affects millions worldwide. There is a lack of awareness surrounding the condition, which leads many to remain undiagnosed, and some never knowing that their excessive sweating condition has a name or is a recognized medical condition.
A dermatologist can do a medical diagnosis for hyperhidrosis, but in the case of primary hyperhidrosis is not always necessary. Those with hyperhidrosis, that is excessive sweating in specific areas of the body, often self-diagnose, as the condition itself does not pose any direct threat to overall health. If you suspect secondary hyperhidrosis (sweating as a side-effect of another condition or medication), then you should visit a medical professional to diagnose or rule out any other conditions that may pose a health problem, and have excessive sweating as a side-effect.
Can hyperhidrosis be self-diagnosed?
If you consider your sweating level to be excessive, experience excessive sweating in your hands, feet, and/or underarms, and sweating impacts your daily life and takes a mental toll on you, you’re likely suffering from hyperhidrosis. A diagnosis is not always necessary to begin treatment, but some treatment options are only available under clinical guidance or prescription, so speaking to a healthcare professional is recommended.
There is no threshold or level of sweat that automatically determines if you have hyperhidrosis. In fact, hyperhidrosis is generally categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, though all levels are deemed excessive.
How is hyperhidrosis diagnosed?
During a consultation with a dermatologist, they will generally do a physical examination (focusing on looking at the areas that sweat excessively) and ask you questions to determine if you have hyperhidrosis. The questions can range from physical symptoms to mental and emotional wellbeing.
Sometimes, medical testing is necessary, and is done with a starch iodine test, also known as the “sweat test”. This test involves coating the skin with a powder that turns purple when the skin gets wet (sweat, in this case). This helps determine which areas are sweating excessively, and narrow down which sweat glands are the most hyperactive, as these areas will appear darkest in the test. This kind of test is most commonly done prior to certain treatments such as injections and microwave thermolysis to better localize treatment.
Hyperhidrosis can also be diagnosed via telemedicine, and in this case photos of your excessive sweating (in addition to your responses to questions) will generally suffice to make a diagnosis and get a prescription for your recommended or desired treatment.
Some questions to ask yourself when determining if you have hyperhidrosis, or that you may be asked if going in to a dermatologist for a consultation are the following:
Do you consider your sweating level to be excessive?
Do you often find yourself sweating excessively for no apparent reason?
Have you noticed certain areas of your body sweat more (hands, feet, underarms)?
Do you think about sweating all the time?
Do you plan your life around excessive sweating?
Have you ever canceled plans because of your sweating?
Do you often find yourself trying to conceal your sweat from others?
Do you suffer from anxiety and/or depression as a result of your sweating?
Do you think that your sweating will have a negative effect on the way people perceive you?
Has sweating made you less outgoing and more reserved?
Do you often have to change clothes or shower more than once a day on account of your sweating?
Do you carry anything to absorb/conceal sweat when you are out (tissues, changes of clothing, towels, antiperspirants, etc.)?
Has sweating had an impact on your studies, career path, or employment opportunities?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above, then you likely suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). The first step would be to either consult a professional for more information, or open up to a trusted person (a partner, friend, or family member) to ease the mental toll this condition has. We then recommend starting doing your own research, join a hyperhidrosis community, and look at the available treatment options.
Hyperhidrosis Diagnosis FAQ
What type of doctor diagnoses hyperhidrosis?
Dermatologists can diagnose hyperhidrosis based on a visual examination. Sometimes, a starch iodine or “sweat test” is performed to localize which sweat glands are the most active. While primary hyperhidrosis does not need a diagnosis, it is good to consult with a medical professional to rule out any potential underlying conditions that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis. Many treatments also require a prescription, or are done in a doctor’s office.
What types of treatments can be prescribed for hyperhidrosis?
There are many treatments that can be prescribed for hyperhidrosis, such as systemic medications and iontophoresis. Only the United States requires a prescription for iontophoresis. Consultations and visits are necessary for treatments being done by a medical professional, such as botulinum toxin injections, microwave thermolysis, and surgeries.
What can a doctor do for hyperhidrosis?
A doctor can suggest or prescribe different treatment options for hyperhidrosis, based on the zone affected, your level of sweating, as well as any other relevant factors.
Is hyperhidrosis a neurological disorder?
The cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown. As it primarily affects the skin, it is often considered a dermatological condition, and is often treated by dermatologists. While the cause is unknown (idiopathic), it is thought to be the result of an overactive sympathetic nervous system response that signals the sweat glands to produce more sweat than is necessary for thermoregulation.
Is hyperhidrosis a medical condition?
Yes, hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by sweating in excess of what is needed for thermoregulation, and in the absence of appropriate stimuli.
Can doctors prescribe anything for sweating?
Doctors can prescribe several treatments for hyperhidrosis, including iontophoresis and systemic medications.
Who can diagnose hyperhidrosis?
A doctor can diagnose hyperhidrosis, and is commonly done by dermatologists. Diagnosis is not always necessary for hyperhidrosis, but can help those seeking treatment.
What can a dermatologist do for sweating?
A dermatologist can suggest and/or prescribe different treatment options such as clinical strength antiperspirants, iontophoresis, systemic medications, injections, and even surgeries.