A laser can be focused into a very narrow beam, enabling physicians who treat hyperhidrosis 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 this information, 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 that of other hyperhidrosis 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 and even Botox if after the procedure you find that some areas were missed. Ask your physician about his or her preferred technique--or combination of treatments.
Of course, laser therapy is just one of numerous treatment options for excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). Typically, experts recommend that patients try antiperspirants (and make sure you are using your antiperspirants right!) and then, if needed, progress to more involved treatments.
Options (in addition to antiperspirants and laser therapy) include:
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Darth Vader’s armor must get awfully sweaty. This Star Wars Day, we hope hyperhidrosis treatments bring relief to all – no matter what planet or galaxy is home.