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Glossary

To help you better understand hyperhidrosis, we have compiled a glossary of terms related to the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Apocrine sweat glands1: Sweat glands that open onto hair follicles in areas like the underarms, eyelids, and genitals.

Apoeccrine sweat glands1: Sweat glands that open directly onto the surface of the skin and are found mainly in the armpits. These glands develop during puberty and vary in number greatly from person to person.

Axillary: Of, or relating to, the underarm. Therefore, excessive underarm sweat is called axillary hyperhidrosis.

Dermatologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating problems with the skin. The majority of sweat management specialists are dermatologists.

Eccrine sweat glands1: Are found all over the body especially in the hands, underarms, forehead, and feet, and are the sweat glands that cause hyperhidrosis.

Focal hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating in local areas such as the underarms, face, palms of the hands, and feet. Also called primary hyperhidrosis.

Focal injections: A treatment for excessive sweating that prevents stimulation of the sweat glands in the treated areas.

Generalized hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating of the whole body that is usually caused by another condition like menopause, metabolic disorders, neurological disorders, viruses, or infections. Also called secondary hyperhidrosis.

Hyperhidrosis Disease Severity Scale (HDSS)2: A diagnostic tool that provides a qualitative measure on the severity of the sweating a person suffers based on how it affects their daily activities.

Hyperhidrosis: A medical condition that causes excessive sweating beyond what is necessary to cool the body.

Iontophoresis: A treatment for excessive sweating that uses electrical current to disrupt the function of the sweat glands.

Plantar: Of, or relating to, the soles of the feet.

Primary hyperhidrosis: Another name for focal hyperhidrosis. See definition above.

Secondary hyperhidrosis: Another name for generalized hyperhidrosis. See definition above.

Surgery for hyperhidrosis: A treatment for excessive sweating in which the nerves that trigger sweat glands are severed or the sweat glands themselves are removed. This treatment is typically used as a last resort, when other treatments have failed.

Sweat glands: A group of cells found in the skin that secrete sweat in order to regulate body temperature. The 3 types of sweat glands (eccrine sweat glands, apocrine sweat glands, and apoeccrine sweat glands) are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions like breathing and pumping of the heart.

Sweat management specialist: A doctor, usually a dermatologist, who is trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating hyperhidrosis.

Sympathetic nervous system: A subsystem of the autonomic nervous system, which controls functions like pupil dilation, sweating, and digestion.

Topical antiperspirants: A treatment for excessive sweating that blocks the opening of the sweat glands on the surface of the skin.


1 Haider A, Solish N. Focal hyperhidrosis: diagnosis and management. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2005 January 4, 172(1): 69-75.

2 Solish N, et al. A Comprehensive Approach to the Recognition, Diagnosis, and Severity-Based Treatment of Focal Hyperhidrosis: Recommendations of the Canadian Hyperhidrosis Advisory Committee, p 908 - 923.

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