When you suffer from hyperhidrosis, it can seem you're the only person in the world with the condition. It's a very isolating problem, as no one wants to be around others when they're pouring sweat. But the truth is that there are more people who suffer from the condition than you might think.
2003 Hyperhidrosis Study First of Its Kind
Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University, conducted a study of 150,000 U.S. households in 2003 and determined that an estimated 7.8 million Americans (or 2.8 percent of the U.S. population) suffer from hyperhidrosis. About 4 million (50.8 percent) of those afflicted suffer axillary hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating of the underarms. Most are between 25 and 64 years old, which is no small matter because, as Dr. Glaser notes, in addition to negatively affecting everyday normal life, excessive sweating "can result in occupational, emotional, psychological, social, and physical impairment."
Hyperhidrosis Prevalence Among Men and Women
Another finding from the report states that women are much more likely to approach a health professional with their sweating concerns than men are, as 47.5 percent of women surveyed reported speaking with a doctor versus 28.6 percent of men. However, no study to date has determined whether or not there is a gender difference in prevalence, only that women are more likely to consult a physician about their condition.
Ethnic and Geographical Differences in Hyperhidrosis Presentation
Data is limited in the U.S., but a 2016 study using data from Shanghai and Vancouver reached a few similar conclusions: between 12% and 14% of patients at outpatient dermatology clinics presented with primary hyperhidrosis. The rate was highest among patients 30 years old or younger, and Caucasian patients were at least 2.5% more likely to show symptoms of axillary (underarm) hyperhidrosis compared with Chinese patients. The study's findings were similar in both cities, suggesting that there is not a large difference in geography, although countries use different criteria to measure and diagnose excessive sweating.
Hyperhidrosis: More Common Than Previously Assumed
A more recent study in Archives of Dermatological Research found in 2016 that hyperhidrosis is much more common than previously thought. According to this study, an estimated 4.8 percent of the U.S. population, or 15.3 million people, suffer from the condition. The prevalence rate is highest among those between the ages of 18 and 39 and lowest among those 65 years and older. Like Dr. Glaser noted, only 51 percent of those suffering the condition have discussed it with a physician or other professional.
The study also supported Dr. Glaser's findings that the most common area to experience hyperhidrosis is under the arms, with 65 percent of respondents claiming to suffer from excessive underarm sweating alone or along with another area of the body, such as the palms, feet, head and face, and trunk of the body.
Most Commonly Affected Body Regions
Excessive sweating can occur almost anywhere on the body, but the 2016 study determined that underarm hyperhidrosis was present in 65% of respondents. The head and face were second-most common at 42% of respondents, followed by hands, feet, under the breasts, back, and chest. In addition, the three most common areas to experience hyperhidrosis (hands, underarms, and face/neck) were also reported as being the areas to experience the most severe sweating.
Hyperhidrosis Affects 85% of Sufferers' Daily Lives
This study went further by also assessing the effects of hyperhidrosis on daily life. It reports that about three-quarters of those surveyed feel their hyperhidrosis has a negative effect on their social life, overall sense of well-being, or emotional and mental health. A majority (85 percent) reported feeling embarrassed by their sweating, and 71 percent said they had experienced anxiety directly as a result. Thirty-five percent of respondents agreed that their condition had caused them to sacrifice "many important things in their life."
Hyperhidrosis Is Under-Reported and Under-Diagnosed in the U.S.
Even more surprising is that the prevalence of hyperhidrosis in many other countries is much higher. The authors of the Archives of Dermatological Research study hypothesize that while their 4.8 percent figure is higher than originally thought, it's still a conservative estimate, and the real figure is likely much higher. Unfortunately, hyperhidrosis is both under-reported and under-diagnosed in the United States, meaning it's very difficult to get an accurate idea of its prevalence. Presumably, the "real" figure is more in line with that experienced globally, where the prevalence rate as a population percentage is in the teens.