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Excessive perspiration turned Emma into a recluse until an unlikely cure changed her life

Publication: Daily Express | 22/09/2013

Excessive perspiration turned Emma into a recluse until an unlikely cure changed her life

EMMA, 34, lives in Atherstone, Warwickshire, with her boyfriend Ian. She runs an online business selling vintage homeware.

She says: “I was only three years old when my mum started using antiperspirant on me, but it didn’t make any difference. By the time I started school, I was only too aware that I was different. On hot days, sweat would trickle down my sides and soak the waistband of my skirt.

Desperate to hide the dinner plate-sized wet patches, I kept my arms virtually superglued to my side. If I needed to reach something, I’d move my whole body rather than stretch out an arm. Back at home, I’d peel off my clammy clothes, but within seconds of showering I’d be drenched again. The washing machine was forever whirring and my tops would fall apart after just a few wears.

I became crippled by a lack of confidence. My school days were miserable – a constant longing for home time. I “forgot” my PE kit so many times that the teachers stopped asking.

In the meantime, I’d fall on every new antiperspirant and deodorant, praying for a miracle cure, but nothing worked.

When I was 16, Mum talked me into seeing our GP. He suggested a prescription antiperspirant that’s painted on at night and washed off next morning.

But I have very sensitive skin and there were side effects of painful rashes, so I decided against it.

Back then, the only other option was surgery to remove the faulty nerves sending messages to my sweat glands. But this also had risks. I was warned that I might suffer nerve damage and be unable to raise my arms above my head.

I was seriously considering surgery when I met Dr David Eccleston – a parent at the nursery where my mother worked. I started baby-sitting for his children and I knew he was a GP, but I had no idea what he specialised in. One evening, he mentioned a new treatment he was introducing at his private clinic. ‘It’s Botox for excessive sweating,’ he explained. ‘I have that,’ I blurted out.

He’d had no idea because he had only ever seen me in lots of layers, but I was thrilled when he offered a free consultation.

I became crippled by a lack of confidence. My school days were miserable – a constant longing for home time. I “forgot” my PE kit so many times that the teachers stopped asking

Emma Jackson

Settling back in the chair, I watched as David painted yellow iodine on to my armpit before sprinkling it with cornflour. ‘This is the starch-iodine test,’ he said, explaining that it would make areas of excessive sweating turn dark blue. ‘Wow,’ he exclaimed as my entire armpit turned black.

David diagnosed hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating – and I agreed to become one of his first patients. He explained that injecting Botox into the armpit would paralyse the overactive nerves. I trusted him, but I was so desperate that I’d have tried anything.

‘You’ll feel little scratches as the needle goes in,’ he said, and it was slightly uncomfortable but within a few minutes it was all over.

I was advised to avoid deodorant and physical exertion for the rest of the day – and to my amazement I stayed dry. The next morning, I scrutinised my armpits for telltale signs of moisture, but there was nothing.

Overnight the sweating had vanished. Now I could splash out on gorgeous designer tops and start catching up on nights out. Everyone commented on how confident and outgoing I’d become.

Now that I could raise my arms without worry, I took up clay pigeon shooting – something I’d always wanted to do. That’s where I met my boyfriend, Ian, and we now live together.

Botox has transformed my life and given me back my freedom – but it doesn’t last for ever.

Botox is naturally broken down by the body, while the paralysed nerves form new pathways to get messages to the sweat glands.

This means that I need top-ups every seven to eight months. It costs £450 a time but it’s worth every penny. I’m a different person now – and I can’t thank David enough.”

Hyperhidrosis: the facts

  • There are two types of excessive sweating: Primary hyperhidrosis is caused by a problem with the nervous system, which sends signals to the sweat glands to cool the body, even when there is no need. Secondary hyperhidrosis may be triggered by an infection or the menopause. By treating the cause, doctors can cure the sweating.
  • Treatments for primary hyperhidrosis include prescription antiperspirants, Iontophoresis – in which a small electric current is passed through the skin – and Botox. Surgery is a last resort.
  • Botox is rarely available on the NHS and most patients opt for private treatment.

Contact the Hyperhidrosis Support Group (www.hyperhidrosis.org.uk) or see the British Association of Dermatologists’ information leaflet at www.bad.org.uk. For details on Dr Eccleston’s clinic see www.medizen.co.uk