Even without medical background, one could surmise what hyperhidrosis is by taking the word apart: hyper means excessive, while hidrosis is a technical term for perspiration from the Greek hidroun or “to sweat.” The technical definition of hyperhidrosis is sweating beyond the body’s need to regulate temperature. This is especially noticed in areas where sweat glands are concentrated, i.e., in the armpits, palms, and the soles of the feet.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis: primary and secondary. Primary hyperhidrosis usually affects the hands (palmar), underarms (axillary), feet (pedal), and face (facial). Palmar hyperhidrosis, or sweaty palms, is the most common type. Hyperhidrosis is also accompanied by dehydration and skin infections as a result of damaged skin.
More than the physical consequences, however, hyperhidrosis sufferers have to contend with devastating emotional and psychological consequences. Chief among these is the embarrassment of shaking people’s hands, holding the hand of a loved one, or something as simple as submitting documents or test papers that have blotted ink or are wrinkled because of sweat. In extreme cases, sufferers withdraw from their favorite sports or recreational activities because they are unable to grip a ball or an instrument properly or have to wipe off a piece of equipment before passing it on to a fellow player, teammate, or friend.
Secondary hyperhidrosis, that is, profuse sweating due to another identifiable health condition, usually affects the entire body. Among the causes of secondary hyperhidrosis are infections, obesity, diabetes, menopause, as well as psychiatric, autoimmune, and other endocrinal disorders. Since sweating is commonly triggered by emotions, individuals do not sweat during sleep or sedation (unless the ambient temperature is really high). However, night time sweating can still be caused by an underlying medical condition which a competent medical practitioner should determine.