Laser Treatment for Excessive Underarm Sweating

Underarm sweating is common and widespread in people who practice sports, but it can be an annoying symptom showing up in the most uncomfortable situations. There’s a social and psychological impact in people with excessive underarm sweating, and it reaches a point where this apparently simple condition starts affecting their quality of life.

Excessive sweating is prevalent in 3 percent of the general population, and according to data in the United States, 2.8% of their people had hyperhidrosis. Half the cases reported suffered from excessive underarm sweating.

What can you do for excessive underarm sweating?

The most frequent treatments for this condition are made to alleviate the immediate symptoms. They include aluminum hydroxide, anticholinergic drugs applied topically, and applications of botulinum toxin. Through topical treatments such as these, patients experience a 50 to 80% of improvements in their symptoms. But they have plenty of inconveniences:

There are other alternatives that provide better results and a definite solution for hyperhidrosis. They are surgical procedures that involve curettage or scaling of the underarm region or sympathectomy, an irreversible procedure in which sympathetic ganglions are removed in a highly invasive surgical procedure. These solutions provide a permanent solution, but come with concerning side effects if something goes wrong:

So, we have temporary measures with mild side effects and many inconveniences and permanent solutions using invasive techniques and more severe and potentially life-threatening complications. Is there a point in-between?

Why is laser therapy one of the latest trends for hyperhidrosis?

The majority of us do not want to go through surgery unless it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable. Some of us are not candidates for surgery, either, but we want to solve the problem of hyperhidrosis and stop using topical treatments every single day.

This is why laser therapy has become one of the latest trends in treating hyperhidrosis. Making use of the scientific advancements of thermotherapy, it is possible to close the gap between topical treatments and surgical solutions.

Laser therapy is performed making use of a variety of devices with laser technology, including microwave and radiofrequency gadgets that aim heat sources into the exact treatment area and create a physiologic change in our sweat glands.

There are many different benefits in this type of therapy:

How does laser therapy work?

What happens in laser therapy is that high temperatures focused on the exact spot denaturalize proteins in the sweat glands. Thus, laser therapy renders sweat glands ineffective in creating excessive sweat and offers a safe and effective way to control excessive underarm sweating and other forms of hyperhidrosis.

This technology is applied using different wavelengths to treat excessive underarm sweating and reach the sweat glands in the axillary region. When they receive direct heat applied precisely in the trouble area, they are destroyed by vaporization, and the production of sweating is reduced.

There are different modalities of laser therapy. Some of them are applied directly over the skin while others may require introducing a very small needle in the skin to increase the effectivity of the treatment.

What happens during a session of laser treatment?

During a session of laser treatment, the first step is cleaning the treatment area, which is typically the underarm region. This is achieved by using sterile detergent solutions applied with sterile gloves. Then, your dermatologist or cosmetologist will apply an iodized antiseptic solution and let it dry.

When the region is dry and clean, a modified powder starch is applied in the area, and the sweat gland areas become stained. This is known as the starch-iodine test or Minor test, and it is a useful way to localize which glands are causing excessive underarm sweating.

Before applying laser treatments, you may need to undergo local anesthesia, which is typically done with small doses of sprayed lidocaine and then with a very fine needle; you may not feel anything at all because the region is already numb with the sprayed lidocaine.

After the region is under local anesthesia, laser therapy ensues in the underarm region, directing the laser probe to the areas previously marked by the starch-iodine test. You will not feel any type of pain or burning sensation as long as the local anesthetic is doing its job properly.

Is there any adverse effect I should worry about?

One of the characteristics and benefits of laser therapy compared to other surgical procedures is that the risk of complications is minimal, and adverse effects are transitory and very mild, if any.

Adverse effects reported by patients typically include reddening of the skin, mild inflammation, and mild burning sensation when the effects of anesthesia wear off. In the majority of cases, patients do not require any medical intervention, and when they do, they are significantly improved with over-the-counter analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications.

After the procedure, it is highly likely your dermatologist or cosmetologist will prescribe antibiotics to be applied topically in the underarm area to reduce the risk of infections.

Like most othere non-surgical treatments such as iontophoresis, Laser treatment does not require hospitalization or remaining in observation after the procedure. It’s an ambulatory technique in which you would simply schedule your appointment, go through the procedure, and come back home with a few recommendations according to your individual case. You may need to plan follow-up visits to your doctor in order to check the effects of laser therapy and inspect the underarm area for any sign of inflammation or infection.

Dr. Gary C. Anderson M.D is a Surgeon who specializes in the treatment of hyperhidrosis. During the past 20 years, he has performed over 2000 sympathectomy procedures on patients with sweating of the underarms, hands, face, scalp or blushing.