Anduena Doci, a 28-year-old mother, is desperate to rid herself of a humiliating condition called hyperhidrosis, a condition that affects 200,000 Americans. It causes her to sweat uncontrollably on her hands, feet and most severely under her arms.
“My clothes are still getting sweaty and they smell,” she complains. “Everyday, I have to change every two or three hours now that it’s so hot.”
After prescription deodorants failed to stop the wetness, Doci learned about a relatively new treatment using injections of the botulinum toxin or Botox to stop excess sweating.
Dermatologist Jim Baral, who’s affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital, says the same injections used to ease frown lines are surprisingly effective at targeting sweat. Botox is also used to treat migraine and tension headaches.
“It works by essentially blocking the nerve supply in the sweat glands, the sympathetic nerve supply and effectively reduces the sweating in the area,” he explains.
Dr. Baral first has Doci sweat on demand through cornstarch, making it easier for him to identify the exact locations of excess sweat. The areas are then marked and prepped for injection. The patient is given a topical anesthetic beforehand and feels little or no pain during the 20-minute procedure.
Dr. Baral says Botox can also be used to stop sweating on the feet and hands.
“If you do it on their hands, it’s more uncomfortable,” he says. “It can be quite painful.”
Side effects can include temporary weakness in the hands because Botox paralyzes muscles. Still, Dr. Baral stresses that overall the treatments are safe.
But they are not cheap. Each arm, foot or hand costs $950 to treat and the effects last only six to 12 months before the injections need to be repeated. Botox injections are not covered by insurance, even for sweating. The most permanent option for excess sweating remains surgery to burn or clamp the nerve cells responsible for sweating, but the surgery carries more risks than injections.
Doci insists the $1,900 price tag for doing two armpits worth it. Two weeks after her injections, Doci was just back from a vacation in sweltering Atlanta. She says even there, her armpits didn’t sweat once.