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Is Excessive Sweatiness Threatening to Ruin Your Life?

April 17, 2012

Local surgeon performs effective treatment for sweaty hands syndrome

Do you suffer from sweaty hands syndrome? Are excessively sweaty feet, back or underarms a problem? What may seem like an inconvenience and an embarrassment to most of us, can actually make it nearly impossible for someone to live their life and relate to other people the way they would like.

Called hyperhidrosis, this condition affects up to 3 percent of Americans, usually starting in young adulthood. Besides causing embarrassing clothing stains, sweaty palm syndrome can interfere with everyday activities most of us take for granted. For example, people with hyperhidrosis have difficulty using a computer because sweat from their hands gets all over the keyboard. Or, sweat can drip on the papers of their school exam. People with this condition tend to keep their fists in their pockets to avoid shaking hands with others or holding the hand of someone they care about.

Unfortunately, many people believe sweaty hand syndrome is something you just have to live with, so they don't seek medical help. Without treatment, people can suffer from hyperhidrosis for a very long time.

"This condition is not totally understood but is believed to be related to an overstimulation of the body's sympathetic nerve chain," explained Mary S. Maish, M.D., a Fremont-based thoracic surgeon with Washington Township Medical Foundation. "We target our treatment to reduce this overstimulation and have had good results."

The sympathetic nerve chain originates in the mid and lower spinal cord. It is part of our autonomic nervous system, which mobilizes the body's nervous system when a fight-or-flight response is needed.

"There is a variety of treatments we can do, but none is as effective as surgery," continued Dr. Maish.

One possible treatment option is Drysol, a product that is applied directly to the skin to dry up excessive sweat. Dr. Maish reported that she has not found this option very effective, however insurance companies often require that it be tried before they will agree to cover the surgical treatment option.

Another possible treatment is injections of Botox into the hand. Dr. Maish stated that she has found the results of this option to be mixed and not long lasting. In some cases, it does not work at all. Botox is a temporary muscle paralytic. Its effect usually lasts from four months to six months.

"As an alternative, surgery works well," she said. "To be a candidate, your condition must involve sweaty hands. We make a small incision under the armpit and, using a small 5 millimeter camera, we locate and clip the nerve causing the problem."

"This minimally invasive, outpatient procedure is very safe, and people begin having drier hands immediately," concludes Dr. Maish.

Dr. Maish reported that this surgery is completely successful 80 percent of the time, while some patients continue to experience a sweaty back or sweaty feet afterwards.

"Most people are happy to trade sweaty hands for sweaty feet," she added.

Dr. Maish recently joined Washington Township Medical Foundation as Chief of Thoracic and Foregut surgery. Foregut surgery refers to procedures done for problems located in the upper alimentary canal, which includes the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the intestine.

Dr. Maish completed her training in thoracic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine/MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and performed an esophageal/foregut fellowship at the University of Southern California, where she worked with one of the foremost practitioners of foregut surgery in the country. She is board certified in both general and thoracic surgery and emphasizes minimally invasive approaches in all aspects of her clinical practice.

Learn more

To learn more about hyperhidrosis and its treatment options, visit www.webmd.com and search under "hyperhidrosis." To learn more about Dr. Maish and the Washington Township Medical Foundation, go to www.mywtmf.com.

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