Microwave your armpits to banish sweating for good
02:47 GMT, 20 March 2012
Sweating is thought to be a problem with the sympathetic nervous system
A device held against the armpit for 30 minutes could banish the embarrassment of excessive sweating.
The machine uses microwave energy to destroy sweat glands.
Once eliminated, these glands do not grow back.
Scientists who developed the device say just two treatments — spaced three months apart — are enough to halt excessive sweating for good.
Also known as hyperhydrosis, it is a
problem thought to blight more than a million people in England alone,
affecting men and women equally.
cause is thought to be a problem with the sympathetic nervous system,
which raises blood pressure and the heartbeat during times of stress and
This system also controls the sweating process and uses it to cool the skin when it senses body temperature is getting too high.
in hyperhydrosis, the nervous system appears to have a fault that means
it keeps sending signals to the eccrine glands — the sweat glands,
found mainly in the armpits, hands and feet — even when there is no need
to cool the body.
condition can be so severe that sufferers need to change clothes two or
three times a day, and many become socially withdrawn as a result.
One in four sufferers has a family history of the disorder, suggesting it may be genetic. It can also be triggered by prescription drugs, such as the breast cancer drug tamoxifen and certain antidepressants.
Treatment usually begins with powerful prescription antiperspirants, although these can cause sore, red skin due to the aluminium chloride they contain — a known irritant.
In recent years there has been a move towards using botulinum toxin, or Botox, best known as an anti-wrinkle therapy, to block the signals from the brain to the sweat glands. This treatment has to be repeated every two to eight months.
The MiraDry is a hand-held device connected to a machine that generates microwave energy
The final option is often surgery to remove a small wedge of skin from under the arm. Doctors cut a flap of skin, scrape away the sweat glands and then stitch it back into place.
The latest device, called the MiraDry, could achieve the same effects as surgery but much less invasively.
Developed by California-based Miramar Labs Inc, the hand-held device is connected to a machine that generates microwave energy.
After the patient is given a local anaesthetic, the hand piece — which looks like a large joystick — is placed against the armpit, where it generates microwave energy powerful enough to destroy sweat glands up to five millimetres beneath the skin.
At the same time, a built-in cooling system stops the skin burning.
Each armpit takes about half-an-hour to treat, after which the patient takes painkillers and uses ice packs for a few days to combat any swelling.
The procedure is repeated three months later to wipe out any remaining glands.
Although the body sweats heavily through the armpits, the number of glands destroyed account for less than five per cent of the four million total, which means the body is still able to regulate its temperature effectively.
In one study of 28 patients, carried out at the University of British Columbia and presented last year at the annual meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, researchers found the machine reduced sweating by 83 per cent.
The device has been approved in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration and could become available in the UK in the next few years.
Dr Anshoo Sahota, spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists, said this could be a significant advance in treating hyperhydrosis.
‘It sounds feasible, especially as microwave technology is already used in other areas, such as treating fibroids in women with heavy periods.
‘It’s an interesting technique which, provided it doesn’t damage the nerves, could be useful. One of the major advantages is that the treatment would not have to keep being repeated.’