Iontophoresis: Frequently Asked Questions

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Iontophoreis FAQs

Iontophoresis is unarguably the most technical home treatment option for excessive sweat. Below, we have tried to address some of the most common questions people have when they first hear about iontophoresis process.

Go on.. read it. Its not that scary! 🙂

  • Would/Can I get shock from iontophoresis machine?
    • Most iontophoresis machines are relatively safe and designed to prevent large amounts of current to pass through the user's body – thus its extremely unlikely that you will get a shock
    • However, its always advisable to be safe and ensure that you read the manufacturer's guide to using the machine and follow all the precautions
    • Tip: Ensure that someone is around when you are using a mains powered iontophoresis machine. For battery powered iontophoresis machines, there is really no severe risk anyways.
  • Does Iontophoresis hurt?
    • For most people, iontophoresis process is mildly uncomfortable.
    • If done correctly, its rarely painful. However, at the same time, its not “pleasant”.
    • Its a mild sensation somewhat similar to the one you get if you touch your tongue to the pole of an AA battery (don't try it if you dont know what AA batter is!)
    • Tip #1: Start out with a low voltage setting. Most of the iontophoresis machines allow you to control the voltage. The discomfort increases (so does effectiveness) with higher voltages, so it makes sense to start low and then go upwards
    • Tip #2: Ensure that there is no skin breakage, or if you have one, cover it with a petroleum jelly or similar product.. This is because the sensation is much more pronounced if the current passes through open skin directly
  • Do I need to use special water for this process
    • Not really – tap water works best for iontophoresis for hyperhidrosis
    • Some users have reported that adding salt to the water makes it more effective as it makes water a better conductor of electricity. This is an unsubstantiated claim though
  • Would my insurance pay for the iontophoresis machine?
    • Short answer – Yes, if you have a good insurance, and sufficient backup from your doctor, your insurance will likely pay for the machine
    • Tip #1: Check with your insurance beforehand before you place the order
    • Tip #2: Insurance would probably have some contraints on the machines you can order (e.g. they may insist on certain brand/category/price)
  • How long before I start seeing results from iontophoresis?
    • Varies significantly by users – some have reported that it started working from Day 1, while for others it took more than 3-4 weeks
    • In most cases, if Iontophoresis is going to be effective for you, you should notice difference by the end of 1st week of usage
    • Sustained improvement (i.e. relief even if you dont use the iontophoresis machine for a few days) is normally attained after a few weeks for regular usage
  • Is iontophoresis a permanent cure?
    • Unfortunately no. If iontophoresis works for you, you will need to undergo the treatment regularly
    • On the positive side, once you have achieved the desired results, often, you can switch to much lower frequency of treatment (e.g. once a week or fortnight) – thus, you wont need to undergo iontophoresis treatment everyday
  • Does the effectiveness of iontophoresis decrease over time?

    • No – iontophoresis is effective even when used over and over again.
    • There is no systemic evidence of decreasing effectiveness over time, though some users have reported that the process did not work for them after a while.
  • Can I treat underarm hyperhidrosis with Iontophoresis? How?

    • Yes, many manufacturers supply special pads for performing the iontophoresis treatment for the underarm area.
    • Tip – the underarm pads are usually sod separately. If you need one, include that in your original purchase as buying separately will be more costly.

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About Author

I have had hyperhidrosis (palms and feet) since my childhood. I have tried/researched almost every treatment for hyperhidrosis over last decade, and in the process have acquired considerable experience that I hope will help others suffering with hyperhidrosis. I am happy to help you in whatever way I can to manage your excessive sweat problem - see the About page for more details and my contact information. Remember you are not alone, and that hyperhidrosis is entirely manageable with informed treatment. Good luck! PS: I recently published all that I have learnt about Hyperhidrosis in my book No Sweat! I encourage you to check that out as I believe its the best resource out there to understand and manage hyperhidrosis without falling for the miracle cures. Will love to hear your feedback on how to make it better.

2 Comments

  1. I have a few questions, and hopefully you can help. I’m thinking of buying an expensive system, but want to build one myself and try it first.

    I’ve read a few articles, about dangers of the toxic ions being absorbed into the body. Has anyone heard of this, and a safer material to use for the bowls? I believe aluminum is toxic. Would iron or zinc be a better option? Do the more expensive machines use safe materials? I think they’re okay in low doses.

    Plus, when I use a homemade version, I should avoid putting my feet right to the bottom. I don’t want to hold my feet in the air that long. Do you know what the pads are made from? Could I just use a washcloth or buy a grid of some type?

    Thanks a ton, and great site!

    • Hello Dwayne,

      I am not a medical professional, so take my advice with caution!

      First off – for the feet (and for the hand as well), you can use a normal washcloth to avoid direct contact with the metal while taking the treatment. In-fact, Fischer machines come with a yellow washcloth for that purpose. The Hidrex/Idromed come with a (I think) plastic net that separate the hand/feet from the metal plates.

      Regarding the toxic ion question – I am not super sure! I haven’t yet heard anyone having issues with using Aluminium plates. Given that Iontophoresis treatment is not really required that often, I would assume that the risk is low anyways. Hidrex/Idromed come with Aluminium plates as standard, but also have option for Stainless Steel for people with Aluminum allergies. If you are especially worried, you can use stainless steel plates – they are anyways easier to clean, and more durable.

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