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Sweaty palms and feet: Coping Tips

Sweaty PalmsSweaty Palms (Think Stock- HealthXchange)
Sweat glands act as the body's natural thermostat. When they suddenly go into overdrive, you get sweaty palms and feet. While this can be socially embarrassing, the good news is that excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, can be controlled with treatment.

"Many reasons cause body temperature to rise suddenly — hot, humid weather, rigorous exercise, emotional stress, a panic attack. Even spicy foods can cause excessive sweating," says Dr Ernest Wang, senior consultant, Department of Neurosurgery, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI).

Excessive sweating can result in sweaty palms (palmar hyperhidrosis), sweaty feet (plantar hyperhidrosis) or sweaty armpits (axillary hyperhidrosis).

Even caffeine can cause excessive sweating
The human body has two to five million eccrine sweat glands covering most of the skin. They automatically release fluid onto the skin surface when the body temperature rises. When the perspiration evaporates, the body cools down.

Specialised apocrine sweat glands are responsible for excessive sweating under the armpits. Besides hot, humid weather, stress and anxiety, there are other triggers for sweaty palms and feet:

  • Caffeinated drinks and alcohol
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
  • Medicinal drugs (such as certain painkillers, cardiovascular drugs and antidepressants)
  • Menopause
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Related article: Hyperthyroidism: Causes and symptoms

How to treat sweaty palms and feet?
Over-the-counter scented antiperspirants can help to mask the unpleasant odour of sweat and reduce excessive perspiration for a day or two.
For longer relief, look for stronger antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride.

Some dermatologists in Singapore treat sweaty palms and armpits with Botox (Botulinum toxin) injections, but results only last about four to six months. Other dermatologists use iontophoresis, which is the use of a low electric current to stop the sweat glands. It also brings temporary relief.

For severe hyperhidrosis, doctors may recommend a surgical procedure known as endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy. This surgery is the only way to stop hyperhidrosis permanently.

"Done under general anaesthesia, the operation involves cutting the sympathetic nerves that control the sweat glands through a tiny incision in the armpit. Patients can usually resume their normal activity within a few days," says Wang.

Related Q&A: Doctor Q&A on sweaty palms and armpits

Tips on coping with sweaty palms and feet
If you are constantly plagued by sweaty palms and feet or armpits, you can take the following steps:

  • Apply antiperspirants on your palms and feet before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and spicy foods which may trigger the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Shower daily, but avoid saunas and hot showers to prevent body temperatures from rising too rapidly.
  • Keep your feet dry after a bath or shower to prevent the growth of micro-organisms. Foot odour is caused by bacterial growth.
  • Go barefoot to air your feet.
  • Let your shoes dry out first before you wear them. Always ensure your feet are dry before you put on your shoes.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton socks and clothing made of natural materials. They absorb moisture better and allow your feet and skin to breathe.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing to control the stress that can trigger sweaty palms.

Related video: How to lower your stress through slow breathing

"Don't let excessive sweating be an obstacle to having a normal social life. Know what can cause excessive sweating and try to control these triggers. Finally, don't hesitate to seek medical help," says Wang.

This article was written by Teresa Cheong for Health Xchange, with expert input from the Department of Neurosurgery, National Neuroscience Institute.

Find more health-related tips and articles on
HealthXchange.com.sg, Singapore's trusted health and lifestyle portal. Health Xchange's articles are meant for informational purposes only and cannot replace professional surgical, medical or health advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment.

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