People affected with hyperhidrosis are faced with considerable physical distress. Apart from having to live with the physical discomfort of wet clothing and shoes, hyperhidrosis can cause a number of further complications, chiefly consisting of skin conditions and infections from constant wetness.
Being sweaty around the clock makes those with hyperhidrosis more prone to bacterial and fungal infections of the skin. Infections that may result from hyperhidrosis are more likely to be seen with focal hyperhidrosis.
- Skin Maceration: Where the areas are consistently wet, the skin starts to soften and whiten, making it susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
- Intertrigo: This is an inflammatory condition or a common rash in the folds of the skin due heat, moisture, maceration, and chafing of skin. Infected areas appear red and raw, and are sometimes accompanied by itching and soreness. People with excessive sweating in the armpits, inner thighs, groin, under the breasts, palms or soles of feet, where friction is likely to occur, are prone to intertrigo.
- Heat Rash: When sweat ducts are blocked and sweat is trapped under the skin, heat rash develops. Those suffering from heat rash feel stinging and prickling sensations in the areas affected, which are often the chest, arms, or upper back in hyperhidrosis sufferers.
- Athlete’s Foot: Plantar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating in the soles of feet) often provokes fungal infections that form between the toes. This causes the skin to itch, burn, crack and peel.
- Toenail Fungus: Along with athlete’s foot, toenail fungal infections are also common for people with excessive sweaty feet. In some cases, the nail may rot, skin becomes red and tender, and a slight odour result.
- Ingrown Toenails: Ingrown toenails also often result from profuse sweating of the feet. As the surrounding skin tissue around the nail is consistently moist and soft, the nail can easily penetrate as it grows longer.
- Pitted Keratolysis: Another common ‘perk’ of plantar hyperhidrosis is a bacterial infection characterised by small pits in the skin and smelly feet, which appear and smell more dramatic when feet are wet. Focal hyperhidrosis increases the chances of pitted keratolysis by 15 times.
- Jock Itch: Fungus tends to thrive where it is moist and warm, and for people who sweat excessively in the groin area, the rash of a jock itch becomes a common condition. For many, this is accompanied by itching, burning or reddish-brown scales in the affected area. Jock itch is contagious.
- Warts: Skin growths caused by a viral infection, specifically HPV (human papillomavirus) also regularly affect those with excessive sweating, who are 3 times more at risk. Plantar warts, found on the soles of the feet, and mosaic warts on the hands or soles of the feet, are the most common types of warts that arise.
- Dermatophytosis: Fungal skin infections are 10 times more common with hyperhidrosis. Found around the palms, soles of the feet, groin and between fingers or toes, areas tend to appear red, crack, and filled with fluid.
- Eczema: This is an inflammatory skin infection that is characterised by itchy, reddened and dry skin. In severe cases, skin may weep watery fluid and bleed.
The upside of the physical distress caused by profuse and persistent sweating by focal hyperhidrosis is that they are not serious medical conditions. They do, however, have a serious impact on one’s quality of life. Being multiple times more at risk to skin infections than those who are not, many alterations in daily activity and lifestyle need to be adapted to improve symptoms.