What is Pasma?

What is Pasma?

What is pasma?

Unique to the Filipino culture is a folk illness called ‘Pasma’. The condition is believed to be brought upon by sudden temperature changes and is often referred to as an exposure illness, as it develops when the body is introduced to cold after being excessively hot. The condition can best be described as a hot and cold imbalance and is believed to affect the conductivity of the nerves in the integumentary system, leading to tremors, numbness, and excessive sweating of the hands and feet.

Cold water is believed to be harmful to one's health once they have been exposed to heat or have been participating in activities that have raised their body temperature. The body's muscles are said to be very hot and, therefore, should not be abruptly brought into contact with cold, including cold water and air-conditioned rooms. Due to the nature of the illness, its prevalence is thought to be higher in those who work with their hands and/or work outdoors. This leads many to undertake unnecessary preventative measures to avoid becoming ‘pasmado’, such as not taking cold showers, nor washing their hands with cold water. Essentially, one cannot come into contact with cold water when they’re tired or have been exposed to heat, and must wait up around an hour before doing so. If you expose yourself to cold conditions, then you can catch Pasma (aka excessive sweating), despite the fact that you were most likely seeking cold to refresh yourself after sweating all day! As temperatures in the Philippines are consistently high, many can see how this could be highly inconvenient, especially to those who want to cool down after a long day.

The folkloric illness’ popularity still prevails in Filipino culture, where it is believed to be a real condition, despite no medical or scientific evidence corroborating its existence. Stories of its occurrence have been passed down for generations, cementing its status as an old wives’ tale in modern times. However, there is still an element of superstition that surrounds the condition, which contributes to its sustained popularity in Filipino society. Like many superstitions, while many do not really believe in it, they will avoid it if they can, just to be “safe”.

Is Pasma another word for hyperhidrosis?

The pathophysiology of folk illnesses often has a medical correlate, which is the case for Pasma. Many medical professionals have stated that the symptoms of Pasma are actually those of an underlying medical condition. Many comparisons have been drawn between Pasma and motor disorders that affect the nervous system, including Raynaud’s disease. Most commonly, however, have been the comparisons drawn between Pasma and hyperhidrosis: a medical condition that is characterized by excessive sweating that most commonly affects the hands, feet, and underarms. As aforementioned, Pasma’s most defining and reported symptom is excessive sweating of the hands, as well as feet to a lesser extent.

Confirming this idea is Dr. Teresita Joey Ples Evangelista, who recently stated on an episode of Pinoy MD that pasma was likely “just the symptoms of other medical conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or hyperhidrosis”. Other medical professionals have completely refused to corroborate the existence of Pasma stating that it is merely a “fallacy”. Regardless of beliefs, there is no denying the similarity between the characteristics of Pasma and hyperhidrosis. The link is so strong, in fact, that some even believe that hyperhidrosis is the English word for Pasma. In hilot (Filipino alternative medicine) tradition, excessive sweating in certain parts of the body, especially the palms of the hands, is called “Pasma”. In modern medical textbooks, these same symptoms are classified as those of hyperhidrosis.

Misconception regarding the cause of excessive sweating leads to misdiagnosis and people seeking treatment or “cures” that will not help their condition. Treatment for Pasma is rooted in homeopathy and allopathy tradition, with ‘cures’ ranging from teas and herbs to oils and salt soaks, and even urine. The condition has even spurred old wives’ tales of its own, including the belief that one must pee on their hands first thing in the morning to prevent Pasma.

How to treat Pasma (excessive sweating)

Excessive sweating can have detrimental impacts on the sufferer, and the miseducation surrounding the topic can lead people to associate their symptoms to an unrelated cause and seek ineffective ‘treatments’. Excessive sweating can be socially isolating, and studies have shown that the condition can have serious impacts on the sufferer’s mental health and well-being. Therefore, those who are afflicted with the condition will continue to suffer, despite effective treatment being widely available.

One of the most effective ways to treat hyperhidrosis or pasma is with iontophoresis, which, ironically, requires the user to put their hands and feet in water! The process works by conducting a mild electrical current through the skin using tap water, which neutralizes the connection between the sweat nerve and sweat glands. Studies show that success rates have reached upwards of 98%. Iontophoresis is a non-invasive, drug-free, and needle-free alternative to other treatments on the market. So for those looking for a natural treatment that is more in line with their cultural and/or medicinal beliefs, this is a clinically-proven effective treatment that could significantly change their lives.

At Dermadry we want to spread awareness about hyperhidrosis and iontophoresis treatment. If you’re exclusively suffering from excessive sweating of the hands and feet, then you most likely suffer from hyperhidrosis, a common medical condition that affects over 5% of the global population. If someone you know suffers from excessive sweating but may be oblivious to the cause or treatment, then share this with them! If you’d like to learn more about the condition and treatment, click here!

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