Remedy for sweaty palms?

Originally Published: March 19, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 26, 2010
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Dear Alice,

Can something be done about my sweaty palms? Other than carrying around a container of baby powder wherever I go, is there a permanent remedy to this problem? Sometimes my hands are very dry, but usually they get unusually damp. I know this kind of question was answered before, but I want to know if there is a permanent remedy. Thanks.

—Water Hands

Dear Water Hands,

Don't let sweaty hands rain on your parade! While sweating is healthy and normal, some people sweat excessively and much more than is necessary to cool the body. They may sweat so much that their normal activities are disrupted. This condition is referred to as hyperhidrosis. Palmar hyperhidrosis, more specifically, is excessive sweating of the hands. Episodes may occur at least once per week without an obvious reason. If you suspect you may have palmar hyperhidrosis, the first step is to talk with your health care provider.

For some people, hyperhidrosis can be distressing, particularly if it interferes with their social life. Some people may have trouble working or enjoying recreational activities because of wet hands, feet, or wet stains on clothing. Oftentimes, people with hyperhidrosis feel self-conscious or anxious about their symptoms — this is totally normal! There are many different ways to keep your chin held high and cope with your frustration. Educating yourself about hyperhidrosis, maintaining good communication with your health care provider, and keeping a good social support system may be helpful. Online support communities may also be a great outlet for talking about feelings and gaining support. If you are a student at Columbia, Counseling and Psychological Services may be able to help you through the emotional aspects of your side effects and treatment.

While surgery may be the only permanent solution to date for excessively sweaty palms, there are many alternative, non-surgical solutions that may come in handy. Considering the pros and cons of each treatment is important when deciding which remedy is right for you. They include:

  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or biofeedback. These options can help you learn to control stress that may contribute to perspiration.
  • Over-the-counter antiperspirants. These can be applied directly to the hands. Remember, antiperspirants inhibit sweating while deodorants only cover odor. Prescription antiperspirants are an option when over-the-counter options do not work. When applied to clean, dry palms at night, these antiperspirants may alleviate watery palms within a week. This treatment is typically used to treat light to moderate hyperhidrosis.
  • Anticholinergic medications are prescription drugs that block acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in your body that helps to stimulate your sweat glands. Many people experience annoying side effects with oral medications, so they are not recommended as a long-term solution.
  • Iontophoresis is a procedure where a dermatologist uses a battery-powered device to deliver a low level of electrical current to the hands while the patient is immersed in water. It can also be performed on the feet and armpits as well. This treatment is thought to temporarily block sweat glands.
  • Botox injections can also reduce sweating by temporarily blocking the nerves that trigger sweat glands.

If none of the above treatments leave your clammy hands behind, a permanent surgical treatment for palmar hyperhidrosis is available. Endoscopic Transthoracic Sympathectomy, or ETS, is usually reserved for people with severe palmar hyperhidrosis who have not responded to other treatments. If you are considering surgery, your health care provider should discuss with you the risks and possible complications.

As you can see, there are many different options to alleviate your clammy conundrum. Speaking with your health care provider may help clarify any further questions about different treatment options. Columbia students can make an appointment through Open Communicator or by calling Primary Care Medical Services at x4-2284. Now for a round of applause!

Alice