If you have excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) which has failed to respond to treatments such as antiperspirants (normal and strong) then your GP will refer you to a dermatologist.
Note: a dermatologist specialises in skin disorders such as hyperhidrosis.
The dermatologist can prescribe a number of treatments which include iontophoresis. This is particularly useful at treating excessive sweating of the hands and feet and possibly the armpits although it is less effective in the latter case.
Discussion with the dermatologist
Your initial meeting with the dermatologist will be a detailed discussion of your condition to determine if you are suitable for iontophoresis.
The dermatologist will ask you the following questions:
- Do you have any skin irritations/rashes/conditions such as eczema?
- Are you wearing a pacemaker? This or any other metal object helps to conduct electricity which will affect this treatment.
- Do you have any open cuts or grazes that will be immersed underwater?
If you have any questions about this treatment then put these to him/her. Make sure that you fully understand what this treatment is and what it entails. Remember to ask about any side effects.
Any treatment will take place in a dermatology clinic within a hospital or at a health centre.
But what is iontophoresis?
Description of the iontophoresis treatment
This treatment involves the immersion of your hands or feet in two bowls of tap water. Each bowl has a conductor which means that one bowl is considered negatively charged and the other positively charged.
If you suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the armpits) then a wet contact pad will be placed around your armpits. A device emits an electrical current through the water which causes minerals in the water to block the sweat glands and so preventing excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
This is not painful but many people experience a prickling sensation and possible skin irritation as a result. It is only likely to be painful for people with a cut or graze.
Examples of iontophoresis devices are ‘Drionic’, the ‘R.A Fischer MD-1a’and ‘Idrostar’.
How long does an iontophoresis session last?
Each session lasts for around 30 minutes. You will require 2 to 4 sessions in a week and should notice an improvement in your condition after 4 sessions or more.
Once you have undergone 10 sessions of treatment you will require fewer sessions –once every month or so –although this depends upon the extent of your condition.
It has proven to be an effective form of treatment in 80 to 90% of cases but requires top-ups on a regular basis in order to prevent any recurrence of your condition.
Iontophoresis home kit
There are now home kits available which enable you to carry out this treatment in your own home. These are safe and easy to use and are as effective as the clinic based treatment.
Another good reason for purchasing a home kit is that you will need regular top ups of iontophoresis to prevent your excessive sweating from returning. So having your own home kit means that you will be able to do so in the convenience of your own. The dermatologist will recommend that you purchase a home kit. These kits cost in the region of £300 to £500 or more.
Side effects of iontophoresis
Every treatment has side effects and this also applies to iontophoresis. However, these tend to be rare and if they do occur then they are usually minor.
Possible side effects include:
- Cracked skin
- Skin irritation
- Mild burns
- Minor electric shocks
But these are rare. The dermatologist will explain the risks of this treatment to you which enables you to then make a decision based upon these.
The decision is yours.
This is a safe and effective form of treatment which is unlikely to cause you any problems.
Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- Guide to Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- What is excessive sweating?
- Types of excessive sweating
- General hyperhidrosis
- Primary focal hyperhidrosis
- Secondary focal hyperhidrosis
- Sleep hyperhidrosis
- Causes of excessive sweating
- Symptoms of excessive sweating
- Diagnosis of excessive sweating
- Treatment for excessive sweating
- Lifestyle changes
- Sweat pads
- Botulinum toxin
- Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy
- Sweat gland suction
- Long term effects of excessive sweating
- Excessive sweating FAQs