The reasons why some people sweat a lot while others stay dry are not completely understood. Sweat glands are located all over the body and are concentrated in the palms of the hands, the armpits, and the soles of the feet. Sweating is a natural process. Most people sweat because they are too hot, and as the water from the sweat evaporates, it cools them off, keeps the skin hydrated, and helps maintain the body’s balance of electrolytes and salts. Sweating can also be triggered by stress. Excessive sweating occurs when a gland cluster is over-activated by very little stimulation, and the “faucet” cannot be turned off.
Less fit people tend to sweat more, but fit people start sweating earlier during equivalent exercise. Nervousness, many medications, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and even eating spicy foods can increase sweat production. Obese people seem to sweat more, but there is no good research on why this is true. In an estimated 1% to 3% of people the sweating cannot be turned off, and this condition is known as hyperhidrosis. These people have a hard time taking a test on paper and are reluctant to turn in school work or paperwork at their job because they smudge the paper.
Healthy, but sweaty people, should dress in loose, natural fabrics and use an over-the-counter aluminum-based antiperspirant on super-sweaty areas. If the problem persists, a prescription antiperspirant with a higher aluminum content may be necessary. Showering and changing clothes frequently may be necessary. Perspiring heavily during sleep or only in one area of the body signals that you may need to see a physician.
Iontophoresis or drionics is one of the most controversial of all methods to stop sweating. It is reported to be about 85% effective. The therapy machine is a battery powered device designed to stop excessive perspiration. It sends a very weak electrical current to shock and temporarily disable sweat glands. Most machines allow adjustment of the voltage. It is most commonly used for hand or foot sweating, but there is an attachment for underarm sweating. Some people say this therapy is slightly uncomfortable, but not painful and consider it very effective. Others say nothing happened even after weeks of use.