Stopping the sweating

October 21, 2009 7:06:22 PM PDT
We all break a sweat now and then, but nearly eight million Americans have a problem that makes them sweat so much it's embarrassing. No amount of anti-perspirant or powder can stop it, but there's a surgical procedure that can.

Chrissey Stull used to sweat so much she couldn't hold a needle ? social situations were the worst.

"Shaking people's hands and just human contact in general was horrible. It was extremely embarrassing," said Stull.

Chrissey suffered from excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis. It can affect a person's hands, arm pits, feet and face.

"The sympathetic nervous system is wired abnormally in these people so that they're more sensitive to the normal triggers for sweating," said Curtis Dickman, MD, Neurosurgeon, Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Surgery used to mean cutting open the chest and a week or more in the hospital.

"It was a tremendously painful procedure and was very difficult to identify these sympathetic nerves with that very invasive technique," said Dr. Dickman.

Now doctors make two small incisions under the arm pit and cut the nerve that supplies the sweat glands. Patients go home the same day.

"It changes the way that the body sweats. The patients no longer sweat on their hands or their armpits, and sometimes on their head and face they also have diminished sweating," said Dr. Dickman.

In a recent study of 300 patients, the surgery was successful in treating over 99-percent of those with hyperhidrosis of the hands and 61-percent of those with excessive sweating under the arms.

"Life is great now. I'm very, very happy I did it," said Chrissey.

Chrissey can exercise, play with her dogs, and do all the things she loves -- no sweat!

There's a risk the surgery can cause nerve damage. Doctor Dickman says the most common side effect is increased sweating in other areas of the body.


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