Often trivialized (what some sweat after all!), Hyperhidrosis has very real and severe impact on the quality of life. True it doesn't kill you, or incapacitates – however, the condition can severely restrict the patient’s ability to live a quality life – socially, psychologically and physically.
Social Impact of Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis patients, especially the ones suffering from hyperhidrosis in the body parts that are not hidden behind clothes often suffer embarrassing social situations – resulting in avoidance of social interactions, low confidence in social situations or worse low self-esteem.
- Shaking Hands – For people suffering with palmar hyperhidrosis, even the simple task of shaking hands with others in social or business settings is a daunting task. A clammy handshake is often perceived to be impersonal/cold or even a sign of nervousness. Many hyperhidrosis patients are perceived to be less confident in interview situations due to a sweaty handshake.
- Holding Hands– Holding hands is a normal, expected behavior amongst couples and helps bring the couple together. However, palmar hyperhidrosis patients are often very conscious of their sweaty hands and avoid holding their loved ones hands. This may have severe impact on the quality of relationship.
- Public appearance– Any public appearance brings in additional anxiety and stress. While most people can hide their anxiety, it’s written all over the face and/or underarms of patients suffering with facial or axillary hyperhidrosis. As a result they get even more nervous and conscious of how they are being perceived resulting in even more sweat.
- Wearing certain clothing & accessories – Hyperhidrosis patients have to often consider their condition while choosing clothing. Many patients avoid wearing light colors as they tend to get stained with underarm sweat, as well as avoid wearing sleeveless clothing that makes the underarm sweat visible. Similarly, women suffering with plantar hyperhidrosis may also avoid wearing open sandals.
- Perception of being un-hygienic– Hyperhidrosis has nothing to do with personal hygiene. However, hyperhidrosis patients are often viewed as un-hygienic by other people due to the visible sweat on the body and the sweat trail left on chairs, glass counters etc.
Practical Impact of Hyperhidrosis
Apart from the impact of hyperhidrosis on the social interactions, hyperhidrosis can also constrain the patient’s ability/effectiveness at doing some routine tasks
- Ability to hold tools – Severe forms of palmar hyperhidrosis can limit one’s ability to hold certain tools tightly and thus may result in a potential hazard for self and others. This may result in less job opportunities or growth potential for hyperhidrosis patients in certain job profiles (e.g. manufacturing)
- Writing on paper – Palmar hyperhidrosis can cause severe problems with writing on paper as the paper tends to get wet under the hand, resulting in a smudged writing. This is especially true in high stress examinations situations where the patients sweat more than usual.
- Driving – Many hyperhidrosis patients find holding the steering wheel a daunting task due to excessive sweat on the palms. This can be particularly dangerous in situations where the patients’ needs to drive for long hours, or when the driving is also associated with stress (e.g. truck driving)
Psychological Impact of Hyperhidrosis
However, the most devastating impact of excessive sweat is psychological. Hyperhidrosis can result in low confidence, frustration or worse depression.
- Loss of confidence – Patients with severe hyperhidrosis have difficulties performing the simplest of tasks, or maintaining normal social relationships (see above). This can result in loss of confidence, especially when other people in their social circles have poor understanding of hyperhidrosis and thus cannot provide a supportive environment.
- Frustration – Chronic sweating and inability to have normal social interactions can result in the patient feeling helpless and frustrated.
- Depression – In extreme cases, prolonged untreated hyperhidrosis can even result in clinical depression as the patient might not even realize that it’s a medical condition