Programme for people with hyperhidrosis
We’re introducing a programme for people with hyperhidrosis with which we want to go beyond the medical discourse and local frameworks. We are interested in the anthropological and cultural aspect of the lifestyle of people with hyperhidrosis. Our goal is to connect individuals with hyperhidrosis to build a local and regional patient-to-patient community. Within our programme we aim:
-to organize local and regional meetings and events;
-to create a supportive environment;
-and to help develop the potentials of people with hyperhidrosis.
Follow us on our bilingual Facebook page Hiperhidroza Evropa – Hyperhidrosis Europe.
- About hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis is a sweating disorder that affects up to 3 percent of the population and may represent a significant physical and psychological burden. It may substantially reduce the quality of life of the affected persons, especially in certain situations and interpersonal relationships, when making a good first impression is imperative. In the long term it may, for example, also reduce employment opportunities and social inclusion. Physical discomfort caused by the constant feeling of moisture; tenderness and inflammation of the skin; fatigue; constantly dealing with hygiene; finding appropriate clothing; quick wear of one’s apparel, footwear and other sensitive materials (eg. paper) are just some of the visible manifestations of hyperhidrosis. The lack of support mechanisms and comprehensive information increases the psychological distress. There are two types of hyperhidrosis: localized or primary hyperhidrosis and generalized or secondary hyperhidrosis. Persons with primary hyperhidrosis tend to have problems since childhood and the causes are not always entirely clear – this type of hyperhidrosis can often have a basis in heredity and is enhanced by stress. People with secondary hyperhidrosis experience this disorder, when there is a certain underlying condition involved and needs to be treated. The programme will be particularly focused on the first group, because due to the often unknown causes it is much more difficult to find solutions.
- A brief historical overview
The first use of the word hyperhidrosis occurs in the Victorian era around 1860. Charles Dickens described this disorder in his novel “David Copperfield” (1850) through the literary character Uriah Heep, who leaves wet finger traces while reading a book, which is well known to people with palmar hyperhidrosis:
“I found Uriah reading a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank fore-finger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy tracks along the page. / It was no fancy of mine about his hands, I observed; for he frequently ground the palms against each other as if to squeeze them dry and warm, besides often wiping them, in a stealthy way, on his pocket-handkerchief. / After shaking hands with me – his hand felt like a fish, in the dark – he opened the door into the street a very little…”
Photo: Anastas Kocarev / Paul Schiefferdecker’s sketch of eccrine and apocrine sweat glands / Jan E. Purkyně
Jan E. Purkyně discovered sweat glands in 1833, and in 1922 Paul Schiefferdecker identified two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. To date, the sweat glands have not been fully explored. They are connected with our sympathetic nervous system that controls sweating. Towards the end of the 19th century a surgical procedure called sympathectomy (operational interruption or excision of sympathetic nerves) was developed, initially as an attempt to treat epilepsy and other diseases, but since 1919 for hyperhidrosis as well (it was first performed by Anastas Kocarev). In the beginning, it represented a series of risks for patients, but since the 1970s, and especially since the 1990s it was introduced as a method of treatment. Despite the hope that the operation would bring a cure for primary hyperhidrosis, many patients report that the operation did not resolve the situation due to compensatory sweating in other parts of the body, which in some cases turned into an even greater problem. Currently, there are several procedures (iontophoresis, aluminum salts, Botox, etc.), and some are still being developed and tested, but there are no ideal medicines and cures yet.
- Current situation
With the help of social media and since the development of the internet, a previously very dispersed and unconnected group of people with hyperhidrosis can finally form a more specific target audience. Many patients can only now find better information and learn that this disorder actually has a name or that on the other side of the world there are similar people. This also makes it much easier to explain to the general public, since in many cases the outside observers’ logic is that “we all sweat” and that couldn’t represent a problem as such. In some countries, access to medical services, which can at least somewhat mitigate the condition, is much easier (for example free botox for palmar hyperhidrosis in Sweden), and that indicates that hyperhidrosis is medically recognized as a possible serious obstacle. Society’s general view of (excessive) sweating increases the dimensions of the disorder because the affected feel that they may get stigmatized if they didn’t cover up their condition when the situation requires it. This perception has a real basis, considering the media frequently expose celebrities who otherwise might not have hyperhidrosis, but did not manage to escape the perspiration, which does not contribute to a better understanding of hyprehidrosis. And on the other hand, when people with hyperhidrosis desperately try to camouflage their sweat stains with dark/white clothing and avoid situations, physical contacts, team sports, or even professions, a broader dialogue and the knowledge of actual prevalence of hyperhidrosis move further away. Therefore our aim is to encourage those affected to speak about this condition, because only through systematic articulation we can shift the general view of hyperhidrosis in the right direction.
-Baker, L. B., 2019. Physiology of sweat gland function: The roles of sweating and sweat composition in human health. Temperature 6(3): 211-259, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6773238/
-Dickens, C., 1994. David Copperfield. Penguin Books, pages 199-201.
-Lee, K.Y.C., in Levell, N.J., 2014. Turning the Tide: A History and Review of Hyperhidrosis Treatment. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 5(1): 1-4, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012678/.
-“Hyperhidrosis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperhidrosis. Accessed 13.1.2017.
-The Local Sweden, 10.6.2012. Sweaty Swedes seek help overseas, https://www.thelocal.se/20120610/41352.
-Anastas Kocarev: Wikipedia
-Paul Schiefferdecker: Die Hautdrüssen des Menschen… https://www.zobodat.at/pdf/Zoologica_27_72_0001-0154.pdf
-Jan E. Purkyně: Europeana-Hynek Fiedler