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A Different Kind of Valentine’s Day Story

“I knew he was the one for me when he held my hand without flinching, even when I tried to pull away out of embarrassment. He told me he didn’t care and continued to hold my hand.”

This early tender moment eventually led to love, an engagement, and an unforgettable wedding day. But to Therese Hernando, it meant more than just a romantic gesture. It literally affected her skin-deep.

Therese has suffered with a dermatologic disorder called hyperhidrosis since she was six years old, leaving her with perpetually wet hands and feet. Throughout her teen years, socializing was difficult since her condition made her shy about shaking hands with new friends or holding hands on dates. The moment her future husband held her hands, she hoped worries about her sweaty palms were behind her. They were, until she started to plan the wedding.

“I couldn’t even touch my dress for fear of ruining it with my sweaty hands. I would hold my hands out to the side during fittings. I didn’t know if I could wear beautiful satin peep-toe shoes in a champagne color for fear the sweat stains would show through!”

Wendy Stewart, a dressmaker/tailor based in Wilmington, DE. has worked on her share of wedding gowns. After more than 30 years in the business, she knows first hand the unfortunate effect of sweat on garments. “Both satin and iridescent taffeta will harden when perspiration sets in, making for a very crunchy walk down the aisle!”

According to Dr. David Pariser, former president of the American Academy of Dermatology and founding board member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHHS), some 367 million people worldwide (approximately 5% of the population) are afflicted with this rare disorder which causes their bodies to secrete up to 5 times the amount of sweat that is normal or necessary to maintain a steady body temperature. People with hyperhidrosis sweat profusely nearly all day, every day. This usually occurs in focal areas such as the hands, armpits, feet and face. The good news is that medical help is attainable and often covered by insurance. The IHHS website www.SweatHelp.org provides education, support and medical resources to affected children, teens and adults worldwide. The site’s hyperhidrosis Physician Finder database helps individuals locate doctors familiar with hyperhidrosis and trained by IHHS on hyperhidrosis treatment methods.

Another recent bride, Sophia Zambas Wastler, always knew she had some kind of problem with extreme perspiration of her underarms, feet, and hands but never knew it was a disease with a name until, at age 31, she casually mentioned it to her doctor. Once she learned that treatments existed, she found Dr. David Pariser on the IHHS website’s Physician Finder. After meeting with him, she immediately began receiving BOTOX® injections, one of several treatment options, in her hands every six months. With her hyperhidrosis under control for the first time in her life, she went out dancing -- and met the man she would soon marry.

“The treatment gave me the confidence to go out! We both loved to dance, and when I told him later that I was receiving treatment for hyperhidrosis, he just held my hands tighter and said it didn’t make a difference to him.”

This past year Sophia married her ‘dancer’ in a traditional Greek ceremony that requires the bride and groom to hold hands throughout. To prepare herself for the June wedding, she made sure to get her treatments in April. “The whole day was magical. Nothing went wrong. It was amazing.”

And Therese’s wedding?

“After receiving treatments, a whole new world opened up for me. On my wedding day, I didn’t have to hold my hands to the side or carry a napkin. I wasn’t worried about shaking  my in-laws' hands. And when we danced our first dance as husband and wife, I didn’t have to pull my hands away from my new husband, except to wipe the tears of joy from my face.”

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