No Slip-Ups with Iontophoresis
All four major U.S. sports are in play this week with baseball (MLB) having just wrapped up its World Series, football (NFL) in the thick of its regular season, and both ice hockey (NHL) and basketball (NBA) broadcasting their opening games.
From fast pitches to perfect layups, and from smooth spiral passes to rocketing slap shots, each of these sports has something important in common. They demand a sure grip and precise release, things that are hard to achieve if you’ve got sweaty palms or palmar hyperhidrosis.
Of course professional athletes aren’t the only ones who don’t want sweaty palms messing up their box scores. From recreational to school sports, sweaty hands can make it tough (if not impossible) to play your best. Beyond the ball field, palmar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the hands) has been shown to severely and negatively impact quality of life (even more than better known skin conditions such as psoriasis and severe acne.)
Iontophoresis has been around for more than 70 years, it works, it’s safe, it’s non-invasive, you can do it at home, and it’s elegantly simple. During iontophoresis, a medical device is used to pass a mild electrical current through water (in shallow pans big enough for your hands or feet) and through the skin's surface. The result? Research shows that 91% of patients find relief from sweaty palms using iontophoresis and that sweating is typically reduced by over 80%. There are no significant or serious side effects and the benefits are long-term, provided you keep up with the maintenance schedule your doctor recommends (usually once per week).
There are a variety of iontophoresis devices available including those made by R.A. Fischer and Hidrex in the U.S. and Avanor Healthcare (makers of the Idromed and Galvan devices) in the U.K. The R.A. Fischer and Hidrex devices are registered with and cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Instructions for using iontophoresis devices will vary (always follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations) but, in general, patients sit with both hands or both feet, or one hand and one foot, immersed in shallow trays filled with tap water for a short period of time (20 to 40 minutes) while the device sends a small electrical current through the water. The process is normally repeated three times per week until the desired results are seen. Once satisfactory dryness has been achieved, patients are switched to a maintenance schedule, usually once per week. To maintain sweat-relief, iontophoresis treatments should be conducted regularly and before sweating begins to return.
On first glance, an iontophoresis device may seem pricey, but the upfront expense is relatively reasonable when you realize that the devices last for many years (if not decades), you can self-manage your treatments, and the devices could be shared among family members who suffer from excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis frequently runs in families). Also, health insurance often covers the cost of the device and sometimes “rent-to-own” is an option.
The bottom line?
If you love sports, don’t let sweaty hands (or feet) stop you from playing! Find an experienced doctor, get treated for excessive sweating, and grab those balls, rackets, clubs, and sticks to get back in the game.
And while you’re at it, grab the T.V. remote too. There’s hot competition to be watched.
Parting Shots on Iontophoresis:
- Learn how to use iontophoresis effectively in your doctor’s office from a trained health professional before trying it at home.
- Expect to feel a mild tingling sensation during iontophoresis.
- Know that the electric current used during iontophoresis is not strong enough to cause a harmful shock but it could startle you, so don’t remove your hands or feet from the water during treatment.
- Don’t use iontophoresis if you are pregnant, have a pacemaker, have a substantial metal implant in the current path (such as a joint replacement), or have a cardiac condition or epilepsy. Not sure? Talk to your doctor.
- Remove jewelry before iontophoresis treatments.
- Cover scratches, tender cuticles, and nicks in your skin with petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) before treatment. If redness occurs at the water line, cover that area with petroleum jelly, too. Treat any mild skin irritation or redness with 1% hydrocortisone cream afterwards.
- Talk to your doctor if the treatment doesn’t seem to be working. Adding baking soda or a prescription medicine (anticholinergic) to the water can help.
Thank you for supporting the important work of the International Hyperhidrosis Society. Together we are making a difference!