Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice A Patient’s Journey


BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 07 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1166
  1. Julie Halford, specialist nurse 1, adviser 2,
  2. Laura Hunt, patient3,
  3. George Millington, consultant dermatologist 4
  1. 1The Hampshire Clinic, Old Basing RG24 7AL
  2. 2Hyperhidrosis Support Group UK
  3. 3London
  4. 4Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich NR4 7UY
  • Accepted 19 December 2008

At age 5 this patient was offered limited and unpleasant treatments for her hyperhidrosis. Now an adult, she describes how iontophoresis has greatly reduced the symptoms of her conditions

Hyperhidrosis and its management have been a huge part of my life since I was 5 years old. As I nervously awaited being reprimanded for doing something typically naughty, I noticed the sweat on my hands. More than being clammy, they ran with sweat, and as I cupped them the sweat rested in pools in my palms. I remember feeling embarrassed, frightened, and fascinated by the sight. Ever since, my life has consisted of finding increasingly cunning ways of trying to hide my embarrassing secret.

Getting through the childhood and teenage years

In a world where many debilitating and life threatening conditions exist, it may seem ridiculous to consider hyperhidrosis as a condition that can affect self esteem and an individual’s social development and identity. But it can and does, and it has certainly had a huge impact on my life. As a tactile, friendly, confident person, I had to change all my natural inclinations to disguise my hyperhidrosis for fear of discovery and the inevitable reactions of disgust and ridicule. Simple childish games and other day to day tasks required careful “coping” methods—for example, sports; turning brass door knobs (which were the only kind in my primary school); writing essays in summer; gesticulating when talking (which I do very naturally); wearing sandals; going barefoot; and shaking hands. In short, things that most people do without a thought all routinely caused me great anxiety, and I developed elaborate stories to excuse myself as there was often no way of participating and disguising my condition. If you have ever experienced revulsion as someone touches your hand or notices how damp they are, you can begin to understand how mortifying …

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