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Lasers

Laser Therapy for Underarm Sweating

You may be familiar with the use of laser therapy to treat varicose veins, to perform delicate eye surgery, and to remove skin lesions.

But did you know that lasers are also used to treat excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) of the underarms (axilla)?

A laser can be focused into a very narrow beam, enabling physicians to target specific body structures without injuring surrounding tissue. This makes laser therapy both powerful and precise – much more precise, in fact, than more traditional surgical tools. The heat from lasers also helps to reduce infection risks and to seal blood vessels to help prevent bleeding. Laser procedures can thus be done faster with quicker recovery than some other types of procedures, and most are performed in a doctor’s office on an outpatient basis – meaning you can go home, or even back to work, soon after your treatment is over. 

For the treatment of underarm sweating, lasers are useful in that they can precisely target, heat, and destroy the sweat glands, which are primarily found in a specific layer of tissue under the skin of the underarms. Tiny incisions (often so small they don’t even require a stitch) are made in the underarms to allow the laser tool to be passed under the skin. The procedure usually takes less than an hour to complete.

As you consider the information below, it is important to recognize that the studies so far regarding laser treatment for excessive sweating have been, for the most part, uncontrolled case reports involving relatively few patients. This means that the effectiveness of lasers (to treat sweating) is not as thoroughly proven and documented as other that of other treatments

In two studies, following a total of 33 patients over the course of six months, a single laser treatment session was shown to significantly reduce underarm sweating. The patients in the study received local numbing (anesthesia) to the underarms to minimize discomfort during the procedure. Side effects included swelling, bruising, and numbness, but these symptoms resolved after 1 to 2 weeks. Follow-up observations showed that both the eccrine glands (the sweat glands that produce clear, odorless, watery sweat) and the apocrine glands (the sweat glands that produce fatty sweat that becomes pungent when broken down by the skin’s normal bacteria) in the underarms had been ablated (or destroyed) by the laser treatment. Measurements taken six months after the treatment showed that underarm sweating was reduced by approximately 78%. Sweat glands are not believed to regenerate (or regrow) after they have been destroyed so the benefits of laser treatment for excessive sweating are commonly regarded as permanent.

Laser technology can be expensive and, for this and other reasons, only a few doctors’ offices offer it. Additionally, insurance may not cover it, and not all doctors and nurses are trained in how to do it. So, if you think you’d like to pursue laser treatment, ask around (and use our Physician Finder) to find a dermatology office that’s equipped with laser technology. You’ll notice there are numerous brand names associated with lasers and that treatments may vary slightly. Ask your physician about his or her training and experience with lasers, the specifics of how the treatment will proceed, what safety measures you can expect (safety eyewear will be used, for instance) what temporary effects you might experience (such as swelling, bruising, and soreness) and when you can return to normal activities, including exercise. Often laser therapy is used as a sole treatment for underarm excessive sweating, but some doctors may use lasers in combination with suction curettage. Ask your physician about his or her preferred technique.

Next Steps

Underarm surgery is just one of numerous treatment options for excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). Typically, experts recommend that patients try antiperspirantsfirst (over-the-counter “clinical” strength and/or prescription formulations) and then, if needed, progress to more invasive treatments. 

Options include:

Use our Physician Finder to locate a healthcare provider near you who treats excessive sweating. We also have tips and tools to help you prepare for your appointment and navigate insurance and reimbursementFor the latest news about treatments, clinical trials, and special events sign-up for our news blogAnd please help to support our work by:

 Research and References

Interested in reading what the medical literature has to say about lasers for hyperhidrosis? Here are links to relevant abstracts and articles published in medical journals:

Clinical evaluation and quantitative analysis of axillary hyperhidrosis treated with a unique targeted laser energy delivery method with 1-year follow up

Treatment of focal axillary hyperhidrosis using a long-pulsed Nd:YAG 1064 nm laser at hair reduction settings

Laser Assisted Reduction of Axillary Hyperhidrosis (LARAH) – evaluation of success up to 24 months after the treatment

Treatment of refractory axillary hyperhidrosis with a 1320-nm Nd:YAG laser

Carbon dioxide laser treatment vs subcutaneous resection of axillary osmidrosis

Laser therapy provides permanent solution to hyperhidrosis

Laser therapy improved severe hyperhidrosis

 

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