When I was a teenager my hands were sweaty. My pediatrician dismissed it as a reaction to hormones and I would grow out of it. If I went on dates I was sure to wear long sleeves and pulled those sleeves over the top part of my hand if the boy wanted to hold my hand. I would go to the bathroom during the sign of peace during church because I didn’t want to hear, “you’re hands are so sweaty, are you nervous?” one more time. Because the fact is that I had NO idea why my hands were so sweaty. I wasn’t nervous but they were cold, sweaty and clammy all the time.
It was beginning to negatively affect my life. My hands would slip off the steering wheel when I would take a turn. If I had to sign forms that were in triplicate, I had to put my shirt or a tissue under my hand to prevent my sweat from ruining the document. At the chalkboard at school, if I put my hand on the blackboard, you’d see my sweat print left behind. A golf club once slipped out of my hands and hit someone at the driving range. All of these embarrassing memories have stuck with me and served as a series of events that lead me to seek help.
On and off throughout my teenage years and early 20s I tried to address this problem with my dermatologist. She finally told me that I had hyperhydrosis. Translated literally this means: excess water. This condition affects approximately 1-2 percent of the population. Symptoms include: (1) visible sweating (2) interference with everyday activities (3) Discoloration of the skin, usually blueish, pink or white (4) vulnerability to skin infections (such as athlete’s foot) due to excessive sweating.
To address this, I tried antiperspirants on my hands. I tried a prescription called Drysol. I tried changing my diet, soaking my hands before bed and a variety of other recommendations that had no lasting effect. Botox in my hands was possible (and proven effective), but having shots in my hands every few months seemed painful.
When I was 25 (and newly engaged), I was reading my local paper and read about a local surgeon who was performing a new surgery called ETS. I was the patient he treated. People whose lives were regularly negatively impacted by their excessive sweating. In a surgery, he was able to stop hand sweating. Each hand was done seperately because in order to access the nerve, they had to collapse your lung. No small procedure, but one I readily researched.
After my initial consultation I was convinced this surgery was exactly what I needed. A few months before my wedding, I had my right hand done. I did this so when people shook my hand in congratulations at the wedding, the guests would notice my beaming smile, not my sweaty palms.
The surgery was not seamless. My lung was slow to re-inflate after surgery and I was a few hours from needing a chest tube. I was sore and generally did not feel well after the surgery. However, the results were immediate. I was no longer feeling pins and needles in my hands, no longer had a feeling that they were constantly swollen, no longer had sweat pouring off my finger tips. It was amazing.
ETS surgery is not for everyone with hyperhydrosis. But, there are several options for people who have hyperhydrosis that do not include surgery. However, this was the best option for me. Hyperhydrosis can be an embarrassing problem that people generally do not want to discuss, but there is relief. If you think you are suffering form hyperhydrosis, talk to your doctor or get a referral to a determatologist that has experience in treating hyperhydrosis. Soon, you won’t be sweating the small stuff.