According to one of Australia's leading Dermatologists, Dr Leona Yip, Australians need to learn more about sweating, especially in an environment of rising temperatures.
"Sweating has always been a problem in warmer climates like Australia's, but it's highly likely that excessive sweating could grow into a much bigger problem as climate change contributes to higher temperatures," Dr Yip said.
Last year, 2019, was the hottest year on record in Australia. Most experts project that 2020 will be as hot, if not hotter. Hotter temperatures introduce a whole new range of health challenges, one of which is sweating. According to Dr Yip, most people don't know a lot about sweating and in particular, why they sweat. Dr Yip believes that this is important information in the era of climate change and hotter summers.
"I've definitely seen an increase in the number of people who come in for sweat-related issues. People get more exhausted and dehydrated in hotter temperatures, which forces them to sweat more. It's only natural that with hotter temperatures, more and more Australians are finding sweating to be a problem." Dr Yip said.
"Sweating is a normal and healthy physiological process. Sweating is your body's way of regulating body temperature. When you exercise, your body heats up and you sweat to bring the temperature back down again. People view sweating as an uncomfortable and awkward topic but it's actually quite important to sweat a healthy amount.
"If you find yourself not sweating at all, something is probably wrong. Unfortunately, some people have the opposite problem. They sweat too much, often for no apparent reason even in cold weather. This is known as 'hyperhidrosis' and chances are, you know someone who has it."
Hyperhidrosis is hereditary and usually starts in childhood or adolescence, and persists throughout adulthood. It is a recognised medical condition that is debilitating and profoundly affects quality of life. Many don't realise there are treatments available.
"As a dermatologist, I regularly treat children with hyperhidrosis who often report they cannot hold a pencil properly as it keeps slipping on sweat, or they are too embarrassed to take part in sports," Dr Yip added.
"I have also treated numerous adults with hyperhidrosis who avoid social interactions like shaking hands, public speaking or going to the gym to exercise because they are stared at. Many also report the high costs of replacing clothing every few weeks that are damaged by excessive sweating."
Hyperhidrosis can be localised to the underarms, hands, feet, scalp but it can also be more generalised.
"Treatments offered depend on the extent and location of sweating. For example, as a dermatologist I often perform neuromodulator injections for axillary (underarm) hyperhidrosis that patients report to be life-changing as it significantly reduces sweat production by up to 80 percent. This is a simple procedure with minimal discomfort that takes less than 15 minutes, and improvement is noticeable within a week. Treatment is repeated every six to nine months," Dr Yip said.
"Approximately three in every 100 Australians suffer from hyperhidrosis. Besides serious discomfort and embarrassment, hyperhidrosis can have an impact on one's overall skin health. One study reported approximately 30 percent overall risk of bacterial, fungal and viral skin infections compared to unaffected people. Hyperhidrosis can also aggravate existing skin conditions such as eczema and acne, and make these conditions more difficult to treat.
"Sweating may seem like a harmless problem and it usually is. However, rising temperatures could definitely turn sweating into a more serious and widespread problem. If you or someone you know suffers from hyperhidrosis, my advice is you don't have to live with it. Don't delay seeking medical advice as dermatologists can usually offer a range of treatments that can potentially make a huge difference or be life-changing."
Dr. Leona Yip is a Dermatologist based in Brisbane. She is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists (FACD) and a leading expert in the field of Dermatology. She is a media spokesperson for The Australasian College of Dermatologists.