Hyperhidrosis - the unknown sweat disorder

Hyperhidrosis - the unknown sweat disorder

Sweaty palms, showers several times a day and the fear of bothering others with the smell of sweat is everyday life. At least 1% of the British population is estimated to suffer from the disorder, but very few of them know it.

Emma Uhrenfeldt Solberg says: “If I have a bad day, I certainly do not want to be close to people, because I do not want to bother them with the smell of sweat.”

Emma Uhrenfeldt Solberg is 19 years old and works as an au pair in London.

Since she was a child, she has suffered from heavy sweat production. She noticed it for the first time when she was eight. Initially, she only had problems with sweaty palms, but shortly after, it also began affecting her armpits. In the beginning, the doctors did not know what it was due to, but after several years of uncertainty, it turned out that she was suffering from hyperhidrosis.


What is hyperhidrosis?

People with hyperhidrosis have increased sweat production to such an extent that it becomes socially disabling. Several people who suffer from the disorder, experience problems when being social because they become more sweaty than what is normal in the public space.

There are two types of the disorder. The first type is called primary hyperhidrosis and occurs to people born with the disorder. Secondary hyperhidrosis is the type that occurs as a side effect of another illness.

People with hyperhidrosis do not have more sweat glands than other people, but their sweat glands produce up to twice as much sweat. In addition, sweat production occurs more irregularly for people with hyperhidrosis than for people without the disorder. Therefore, it is not always enough to keep the heart rate down and rest, and this is one of the reasons why people with hyperhidrosis experience problems in their social lives.


Summer is hell

When other people look forward to the days becoming brighter and warmer as well as being able to wear shorts again, people suffering from hyperhidrosis become extra uncomfortable.

Emma says: “It’s hell when the seasons change. It is the worst during summer because I am extremely affected. When the temperature reaches around 15 degrees, I usually have to take more than one bath per day in order to feel that I do not bother other people with the smell of sweat.”

She says: “In general, I try not to let the disorder limit me, but in some situations, I do it unconsciously. When I meet people I do not know, I am often very reluctant when it comes to being in close contact, for instance when hugging.”


Few know about the disorder - sweat is taboo

It is estimated that at least 1% of the British population suffer from hyperhidrosis - many of which are not aware of it. Despite its widespread reach, the disorder is not spoken of much in the daily debate.

Emma says: “It's incredibly rare that I ever hear, read or see anything about hyperhidrosis so that is also one of the reasons, why I try to be open and tell people about it.”

People are afraid to open up and talk about their situation, and this is due to the general perception that it is taboo to talk about sweat issues. Some will see it as an indication of poor hygiene, but that is not the case. 

Emma says: “There is often a lot of taboo around the theme of body fluids, so there is a lot of shame associated with hyperhidrosis, because it is about sweat. It is my hope that we can get the conversation going and that everyone dares to speak openly about it. This also means that people have to face their prejudices and understand that people with hyperhidrosis have not made a choice to not take care of their hygiene. It is actually something you do not have control over.”


1. https://www.sundhed.dk/sundhedsfaglig/laegehaandbogen/hud/symptomer-og-teg…
2. https://www.nasgp.org.uk/hyperhidrosis/

Latest health news

All health news
It only takes 2 minutes.
Do you want to be able to join research projects?
Free and non-binding · more than 65.000 members
Yes, sign me up!
Maybe later
Health Panel

Become a part of Health Panel

The goal of Health Panel is to improve health through research, but we need your help to do so. You can help by signing up for Health Panel and thereby possibly become a participant in research projects. We will only contact you if your health profile is consistent with a current research project. All research projects are pre-approved by the respective  Independent Ethics Committees (IEC) or Institutional Review Boards (IRB).

Create Health Profile