Set Up Your Hyperhidrosis Patients for
Treatment Success

Doug Brunk

July 31, 2020

When children and adolescents first present to George Hightower, MD, PhD, with suspected primary hyperhidrosis, he tries to gauge their level of impairment and distress.

"I ask my patients directly: 'Does this get in the way of doing things you enjoy?' " Dr. Hightower said during the virtual Pediatric Dermatology 2020: Best Practices and Innovations Conference. If they say yes, he then asks, "'What are those things that it gets in the way of?' Also, so that I can develop a rapport with them, I ask, 'Is it causing you to view yourself negatively?' I also ask them how they anticipate treatment is going to change that."

Dr. Hightower, of the departments of dermatology and pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, and a pediatric dermatologist at Rady Children's Hospital, defined focal primary hyperhidrosis as focal, visible, excessive sweating for at least 6 months without an apparent cause, plus at least two of the following characteristics: bilateral and relatively symmetric, sweating that impairs daily activities, onset before age 25, at least one episode per week, family history of idiopathic hyperhidrosis, and focal sweating that stops during sleep.

"Based on their prominence in the popular media, armpits relative to body surface area play an oversized role in our patients' perception of well-being," he said. "Most of all, patients' concerns regarding their armpits include one more of the following symptoms: smelly, sweaty, red, and itchy or painful."

The differential diagnosis for disorders of the axilla includes irritant/contact dermatitis, folliculitis, seborrheic dermatitis, hyperhidrosis, and hidradenitis suppurativa.

Topical antiperspirants are the preferred initial treatment. "They're widely available, inexpensive, and well-tolerated therapies," Dr. Hightower said. Most commercially available antiperspirants contain low-dose aluminum or other metal that keeps the sweat gland ducts from opening.

"Most patients referred to me have failed to improve with over-the-counter antiperspirants or aluminum chloride 20%," he said. "We start by reviewing the appropriate use of aluminum chloride 20%. If they're using it appropriately and fail to achieve adequate control, I open the discussion to use glycopyrronium tosylate cloth 2.4%, applied daily. This can be cost prohibitive or not covered by insurance." Other options include glycopyrrolate 1-6 mg daily and microwave-based procedural intervention.

In a post hoc analysis, researchers examined the efficacy and safety findings by age from two phase three randomized, controlled trials of glycopyrronium tosylate in pediatric primary axillary hyperhidrosis (Pediatr Dermatol. 2019 Jan-Feb;36[1]:89-99). It was well tolerated in the 19 patients aged 9-16 years.

"No patients discontinued from the study in this age group [because of] symptomatology," said Dr. Hightower, who was not involved with the study. "The concerns related to this medication are related to anticholinergic effects such as blurry vision and dry mouth, but overall, randomized clinical trial data support the benefit of this medication in helping patients improve the symptoms of hyperhidrosis."

In an earlier study, researchers retrospectively studied children with hyperhidrosis who were treated with a mean dosage of 2 mg glycopyrronium tosylate daily (J Am Acad Dermatol 2012 Nov;67[5]:918-23). The average age of patients was 15 years. Most (90%) experienced some improvement and 71% of those who responded saw major improvement. This occurred within hours of administration and disappeared within a day of discontinuation.

The two most common side effects were dry mouth (26%) and dry eyes (10%). More worrisome side effects were associated with higher dosing, including blurring of vision (3%) and sensation of palpitations (3%).

When patients return for their first follow-up appointment after starting a treatment plan, Dr. Hightower revisits their level of impairment and distress with hyperhidrosis. "I ask, 'Remember that activity that you were doing before that this was getting in the way of? Are you doing that more? Do you feel like you can do that in a way that you weren't able to do before, whether it's playing an instrument or spending time with friends?' "

He also sets expectations with patients and their families with comments such as, "If this treatment does not work for you after 2 months, the next option I would consider is ..." and, "for most people there is no cure, but treatment is helpful." He also emphasizes the importance of follow-up care, so they "come back to assess the next steps."

Dr. Hightower reported having no financial disclosures.

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