9 Embarrassing Questions You Have About Your Armpits

First of all: How much sweating is too much sweating?

Underarms: Everyone has ’em, but nobody really likes to talk about ’em. Why not? Talking brings you knowledge, and knowledge is power, so let’s discuss some of the common questions you have about your armpits. Here, four doctors have lots to say.

1. Why do we sweat?

First off, there actually two different kinds of sweat glands that produce two different kinds of sweat, says Kenneth Howe, M.D. at Wexler Dermatology. “Most of the sweat glands on our skin are eccrine glands, which control our temperature and are present all over our body,” Howe explains. “They produce a watery, odorless perspiration that evaporates on the surface of our skin, cooling our body when it’s hot.”

The other type of sweat glands are the apocrine glands, and its purpose is a little less clear. “Most scientists feel that the purpose of apocrine sweat is to act as a pheromone — that is, the smell they give off can act as a sexual attractant, territorial marker, or warning signal.” Who knew your sweat was so smart?

2. How do I know if I’m sweating too much?

If your sweating is interfering with your quality of life, you’re not alone: Howe notes that almost 3% of the U.S. population suffers from excessive perspiration, with “half of those cases affected in the armpits.” Yikes! While many of those cases are idiopathic — there isn’t an underlying medical cause — he says it can be hereditary, too.

Howe explains that this condition, known as axillary hyperhidrosis, is diagnosed when excessive, visible sweating has been going on for at least 6 months without an apparent cause, as well as the presence of at least two of the following characteristics:

  • Sweating affects both underarms equally.
  • Sweating impairs daily activities.
  • At least one episode occurs per week.
  • The excessive sweating begins before age 25.
  • A family history of the problem exists.
  • The perspiration stops during sleep.

If two of more of these symptoms are applicable to you, and your sweating is impeding your life, talk to your doctor for potential solutions.

As for odor: Your body is not totally odorless — a little scent is perfectly natural. But if you’re starting to feel like your personal, ahem, fragrance is scaring people away, talk to your doctor about potential solutions.

3. Okay, but how can I stop sweating?

First, try conservative treatments like deodorants and antiperspirants. “When over-the-counter antiperspirants are not enough, a doctor can prescribe a stronger one like Drysol,” says Howe. “This product contains a higher concentration of aluminum chloride, making it more effective than over-the-counter picks — but it can also be much more irritating.”

If those aren’t effective enough, there are more drastic alternatives. “Some patients require oral medications such as anticholinergic drugs, but these have side effects like dry mouth and blurry vision,” explains New York City dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Michele Green, M.D.. Iontophoresis machines, medical devices which use electric currents to curb sweating, have also been utilized but need to be repeated daily or weekly.

For folks who aren’t afraid of needles, there’s Botox, which is now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of excessive sweating. “Botox injections are used to disable the sweat glands by blocking the release of acetylcholine, shutting down the sweat process in any site that is injected,” explains Green. The effects can last from 6 to 12 months, depending where it’s injected.

Another new treatment: miraDry, a procedure done at a doctor’s office that takes about an hour. “MiraDry uses microwaves to treat the sweat glands of the armpit,” says Howe. Local anesthesia is usually injected into the area prior to treatment, but there can be swelling or tenderness in the area afterward.

Other patients seek more natural solutions to their sweating, such as chamomile, valerian root, sage root, St. John’s Wort, acupuncture, or relaxation treatments. Talk to your doctor to determine the best route for you.

Read the full article here.