Surgery offers a number of options for excessive sweating that involve either physically removing the sweat glands or interrupting the signals that travel along the nerves to the sweat glands. Surgery of any kind should be very carefully considered, as the side effects can be severe. These options are permanent and usually a last resort. Some of the main surgical procedures are explained here.
Retrodermal Curettage is used to relieve excessive underarm sweating. The procedure involves the removal of sweat glands under the arm by scraping them out through a small incision made in the armpit. The area is treated with antibiotic cream and covered with a dressing. The technique is thought to be quite successful, but there are no published statistics to prove its effectiveness. Only a small number of surgeons are believed to carry out the procedure on a private basis and results may vary depending on the skill of the surgeon.
Laser Sweat Ablation is another technique to relieve excessive underarm sweating. In this case, an incision (or sometimes two cuts) is made and the skin loosened, then a laser device is placed into the cut and fired, which destroys the sweat glands. These are then sucked out of the area. As with Retrodermal Curettage, there are no statistics on the success of this experimental treatment and it is performed by only a small number of clinics.
Endoscopic Transthoracic Sympathectomy is a major surgical option that is most frequently used for sweating of the hands, as well as the armpits. ETS should be the absolute last resort option due to the seriousness of the operation and its side effects.
During the operation, which is carried out under general anaesthetic, the surgeon deflates a lung and inserts a camera through an incision in the side of the chest, which is used to guide them to the nerves that control the sweating. The nerve is then cut at specific points, thereby interrupting the signals that stimulate the sweating. The operation is a major one and means two hospital stays, as each side of the body must be operated on separately.
It is important to understand that many people who undergo ETS find that they suffer from compensatory sweating, which means that they sweat in different areas from where they suffered before the operation and this compensatory sweating can be worse than the original condition.
Recovery time varies for each operation and, as with all surgery, no procedure is guaranteed to be 100% safe or 100% successful. It is also understandably the more painful option.
Surgery is offered in private hospitals and clinics and may be available by GP referral. Each treatment varies.
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