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Annie thought she was going to be a champion tennis player. At the age of 12 she was "ranked" in her home state of California. As a high school freshman, she played varsity. "I thought I would play tennis my whole life. I thought I'd go to college on a scholarship," she says. But her racket kept slipping out of her hands and special tape and grips didn't help. "My sweaty palms literally prohibited me from playing tennis," says Annie, who's now 17. "It didn't feel fair that other people didn't have the same thing [excessively sweaty hands]. I was at a disadvantage. It was too much for me, so I quit."
To fill the void that tennis left, Annie took up theater but found that excessive sweating still took center stage. In her last show she needed to wear high heels, but her sweaty feet kept slipping out of them. And when the actors lined up to hold hands and bow, no one wanted to be next to Annie. "They were all so grossed out by it [the sweating]. They said, 'Oh my gosh! Your hands are so cold, so wet, so nasty...' I tried to brush it off and laugh, but it hurt my feelings."
Before getting treatment as a patient volunteer for the International Hyperhidrosis Society, Annie would sweat everyday, all day, and most markedly on her hands but also from her feet and underarms. Sitting in her room, working on homework, Annie's hands would drip and her papers would get wet. During exams at school, her sweating was nearly unbearable. "It was really hard," she says, "because I had to wipe, wipe, wipe my hands all the time while I took tests. My papers got wet and crinkly and the keyboard on my computer got gross. At first my mom didn't get it. I'd hand her a piece of paper and she'd say 'Why'd you put it down it water?'"
Thankfully, Annie's school began to allow her to take extra time to complete her tests. "She's so careful," Annie's mother (Kellie) says, "but her school work takes longer. She's at such a disadvantage."
Kellie remembers that Annie's hands were sweaty started at an early age. "We'd mention it to the doctor," says Kellie, "and we went to a dermatologist when it starting becoming an issue with tennis, but no one told us it was a condition." It wasn't until Annie and Kellie started doing their own research that they found out about hyperhidrosis. "We found the International Hyperhidrosis Society and medical studies about hyperhidrosis and it completely validated what was going on, for both of us," says Kellie. "It's a real condition. It's a real problem."
"It's an actual disease," Annie remembers thinking with relief. "I'm not just weird. I had felt so alone, but now I wasn't alone. It made me feel so much better. It's so comforting to know other people are dealing with excessive sweating, too."
But while Annie now knows she has a medical condition, and her school allows her to take extra time to complete her assignments, the College Board that administers the SAT college entrance exam was less obliging. Despite two letters from Annie and Kellie, and one from Lisa Pieretti, Executive Director of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, pleading Annie's case, the Board said that because hyperhidrosis is not a recognized disability, Annie wouldn't be allowed extra time to complete her SATs. "You can't get your SAT paper wet," laments Annie so she packed a towel and had to wipe, wipe, wipe. "I adapted," says Annie. "But I want other people who have this to know more about it. It's a hidden, secret disease."
But Annie didn't know that. Then, on June 20th 2014, at the urging of the IHHS staff, Annie and her mom traveled from California to Atlanta to take part in the International Hyperhidrosis Society's " Master Class in Hyperhidrosis Patient Care and Practice Efficiency" that the IHHS held at Emory University's Department of Dermatology. As a patient volunteer, Annie met over 50 other people who are also struggling with hyperhidrosis. "It was so reassuring to know that I am not in this alone," she says. "I also got to try the iontophoresis machine and plan on buying one and I got ideas for products to try and samples that really work!". These samples were the top-rated products in the SweatHelp Deals and Discounts program.
And maybe best of all, Annie received free Botox injections for her hands administered by leading dermatologists in the field of hyperhidrosis care and research. She was one of over 50 hyperhidrosis patients who received treatment as part of demonstrations to train more physicians in the effective diagnosis and management of excessive sweating. Annie admits she was scared about the injections but says that, "The doctors were so nice and encouraging and helped me through. I am afraid of needles so I just closed my eyes. The doctors talked to me the whole time." (This sort of expertise in supporting patients is one of the many reasons it's helpful to seek treatment from one of the doctors trained by the International Hyperhidrosis Society.)
When we contacted Annie recently, we asked if she'd noticed a difference since her Botox treatment. "For the first few days, my hands were really dry for a few hours and then sweaty for another few. I was upset but didn't give up hope because I was told to wait at least ten days. After that I really started to notice the effect. My hands have been very normal! Instead of dripping sweat they just become a little clammy. I am very, very happy with the outcome."
For a few different reasons (including convenience, comfort, and budget) Annie still plans on buying an iontophoresis machine to use when the Botox effect wears off (typically retreatment would be needed for the palms after 6 months) but she says, "I really recommend getting Botox. While I only received it in my hands, I am sure it works in other areas, as well." She says there was discomfort during the treatment process but "the outcome is definitely worth it. I may do it again in the future."
As Annie enters her senior year of high school, her future seems wide open again. Tennis anyone? Game on!