13 Ways of Looking at a Sweaty Life
My Half-Century of Struggle with Hyperhidrosis
1. A Tiny, Dreadful Aura. You were born sweating. Your mother has told you that the pediatrician was perplexed by your sweaty baby fists and feet (it was the early 1970s in Texas, and you would soon gain a reputation for perplexing local doctors with your various issues). She’s also told you about the soaked bedding in your crib, and you picture it a as little halo of liquid dread around your body, your tiny nervous system seeping anxiety before you could properly sit up.
2. Hyperhidrosis (Hh) definition (from SweatHelp.org) : In some people, the body’s mechanism for cooling itself is overactive — so overactive that they may sweat four or five times more than is necessary, or normal. When sweating is this extreme it can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing, dangerous, and disabling. It often disrupts all aspects of a person’s life, from career choices and recreational activities to relationships, emotional well-being, and self-confidence. This kind of excessive sweating is a serious medical condition. It’s called hyperhidrosis (Hh) and it afflicts millions of people around the world (nearly 5% of the world’s population). But, due to lack of awareness among sufferers and lack of education among medical professionals, most people are never diagnosed or relieved of their symptoms.
3. That’s Incredible! Throughout school, my sweat was a topic of discussion among my peers and their families. A tiny perk of that harrowing fact was that a schoolmate’s physician/father was able to diagnose my problem as Hh when I was about 8.
Also around that time, a segment about Hh ran on the television show “That’s Incredible!”
I vividly remember the dark-haired young man profiled, and how the hosts reacted wincingly to his sweaty hands. The segment wrapped up with a video of him having surgery — Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy (ETS) — which involves an incision in the sympathetic nerve, deep in the thorax — the core of the body. I remember feeling a chilling conflict within myself as I watched the scalpel cut into the anesthetized young man’s flesh; the idea of the surgery seemed horrific, and yet it held promise to end a major source of my ongoing agony.