To Sweat or Not To Sweat? That is the Question.
There are two types of sweat glands eccrine glands and apocrine glands. They each are found in different areas of the body and have a different characteristics and functions.
They each secrete water like substances directly on the body surface and not into the bloodstream. Some similarity in structure being coiled and tubular they differ in several ways. The eccrine glands are found all over the entire body and do not produce an odor. While the apocrine glands are larger and produce thicker and more odorous sweat. These glands are located in the underarms, genital area and around the nipples.
Apocrine glands produce a sweat containing proteins, fats and other substances that cause a thicker and stickier sweat. This substance interacts with the bacteria on the skin’s surface producing a very unpleasant odor. These glands are dormant until puberty. Obviously this is why children do not need to wear deodorant.
Differences in these two glands are the depth in the dermis. Apocrine glands are located in the deeper layers of the dermis and secrete their fluids via tiny canals of the hair follicles. Eccrine glands are more superficial and secrete their fluids directly on the skin through the pores. Another structural difference is the size of the lumen or opening of the glands. Apocrine have a slightly larger opening than eccrine glands.
Eccrine glands are found in all areas of the body they have a higher density in the palms, soles of feet and scalp areas.
The secretion from these glands is odorless and contains high amounts of electrolytes and sodium. For this reason it is important to drink plenty of water enriched with electrolytes when producing a lot of sweat.
Eccrine glands help to control body temperature. When the body’s temperature increases do to environment temperature, exercise, stress or excitement these glands become activated and sweat secretion increase. This process of sweating allows the body’s temperature to drop to a more comfortable or health temperature. An additional benefit of the eccrine glands, in producing sweat, is to protect the body from harmful bacteria and viruses.
Science has not been able to explain the exact purpose of the apocrine glands. These glands in other animals act to produce a scent to attract the opposite sex. Many believe this is also true for humans. It has been documented that the apocrine glands can have an effect on hormones. Potentially interfering with a woman’s menstrual timing. Aprocrine glands are stimulated by stress or excitement.
What can you do to stop excessive sweating?
How can you tell if your sweating is excessive?
There is no way to measure what is excessive sweating from one person to the next. Excessive sweating is defined as any amount of sweating that can cause a problem or distress. There is no know definable cause, but up to 3% of the population suffers from a condition know as hyperhidrosis.
This condition is found to start in Adolescences or young adulthood. Areas where sweating is the worst are the palms, soles of feet and underarms. These individuals are otherwise health and are no more nervous or easily upset than others who sweat normally.
Many who suffer from hyperhidrosis feel extremely embarrassed by their excess sweating and report frustrated with things most of us take for granted:
- Frequently changing clothing because of underarm sweating
- Avoiding shaking hands
- Missing out on social gatherings due to concern about sweating
- Challenges with romantic relationships
- Difficulty writing because the pen slips or sweat soaks through ink on the page
About one-third of those who suffer with focal hyperhidrosis ( localized area) find the condition significantly affecting their quality of life.
What Can Be Done for Hyperhidrosis?
Even with the significant impact of the condition most those who suffer with the condition never seek treatment.
Because they have been living with the problem since youth they have learned to live with excessive sweating. They themselves don’t recognize that it is a treatable condition.
That is unfortunate because there are treatments available. There is no 100% cure but there are medications and procedures that can help many that face this problem everyday.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants can be use not only for the underarms but also on the hands and feet. This type of control does not need a doctor’s visit. It is best to apply antiperspirant at bedtime after showering.
Prescription antiperspirants are for those that OTC antiperspirants didn’t control the amount of sweat. A physician can prescribe a higher strength aluminum salt-based antiperspirant affective for a mild case of excessive sweating that doesn’t respond to OTC antiperspirants.
For more difficult cases of hyperhidrosis Botulinum Toxin Type A (Botox) injections can be used to turn off the sweat glands of the underarms, hands and soles of feet for several months. The down side is injections are uncomfortable and local anesthesia maybe needed. The injections have to be redone every 4 to 6 months because the treatment is not always covered by insurance. Therefore cost can be a factor. Treatments can run around $1000 per treatment depending on the size and the area treated.
The FDA approved treatment to permanently eliminate excessive sweating is the mirDry system. The mirDry procedure results are noticeable in one or two treatments. The procedure is relatively painless and permanently eliminates underarm sweat glands. It uses electronmagentic energy to destroy the glands. There is possible 82%+ decrease in sweating after one treatment. An added benefit is there is up to a 70% reduction in underarm hair (of all colors) after a treatment. Another added benefit is a reduction in odor because there is no sweat to react with bacteria. Currently this treatment is limited to the underarm area but researchers are close to treatments for excessive sweating on the palms and soles of feet.