Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can range from mild to severe. It can be a slight nuisance, or a condition that interferes with work and is socially embarrassing.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our highly experienced physicians offer a variety of treatment options to help you alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and regain confidence.

Why Choose Us

UChicago Medicine is one of the few medical centers in the country to perform needlescopic hyperhidrosis surgery. Because the needlescopic instruments are so slim, surgeons only need to make two incisions less than one-eighth of an inch in length. This results in extremely small post-surgical scars — less than half the size of other ETS procedures. Most patients do not even need stitches after surgery.

Our thoracic surgery team includes nationally recognized experts who have had extensive experience in thoracoscopic techniques. They have performed hundreds of thoracoscopic sympathotomy procedures for hyperhidrosis with excellent results.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Patients with mild to moderate symptoms are usually the best candidates for the following nonsurgical options:

Available by prescription, these medications work much like over-the-counter antiperspirants, except they are stronger. The patient applies the medicine to the affected area. Although the medication is left on for six to eight hours, the treatment may only be effective for a few hours. Side effects of this treatment may include skin irritation.

There are a variety of oral medications that can be prescribed to control a patient's reaction to a certain situation. Anti-anxiety medications can help patients who have excessive sweating primarily due to stress-induced anxiety. Antidepressants also have helped patients cope with this condition. These medications often have side effects.

This electric unit is used primarily for hyperhidrosis of the hands and feet. The affected area is submerged in a pan of water while a mild electric current is applied. Frequent and lengthy treatments are necessary to control sweating. Skin irritation may occur.

A doctor will inject a small amount of botulinum toxin (Botox) into the affected area, typically the underarm or hand. The treatment is usually effective for four to six months before excessive sweating starts to reoccur. In some patients, results may last up to a year. Treatments will need to be repeated and can be rather costly and painful. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Botox injections worked well for severe underarm hyperhidrosis.

Surgical Treatments

Thoracic sympathotomy is the most common — and most effective — surgery for hyperhidrosis. The goal is to destroy a portion of the sympathetic nerve, which activates your body's fight-or-flight response under stress.

Previously, surgeons would have to make a large incision in the chest or neck. Now, a less invasive method, called endoscopic thoracic surgery (ETS), is used. This surgery often is performed in other centers with instruments that measure almost half-an-inch in diameter. But surgeons at UChicago Medicine now use needlescopic techniques to perform ETS with extremely slim instruments, measuring only one-eighth of inch in diameter.

In ETS, the surgeon makes two small incisions in the patient's armpit to insert the instruments that destroy a part of the sympathetic nerve. Our physicians divide, rather than clip, the nerve. That provides a permanent and more effective solution.

This surgery has a quicker recovery time as well as less scarring than other surgeries for hyperhidrosis. In fact, the incisions are so small that they require no sutures for closure.