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Excessive sweating? Try new medical procedure

December 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
It's an embarrassing problem most people don't want to talk about, but now surgeons are coming up with more permanent ways to deal with the problem of excessive perspiration.

We all have about 2 million sweat glands in our bodies. A little sweating here and there, that's normal and healthy. But some people sweat excessively, and that can be embarrassing. Now a new procedure may help.

Salesman Stephen Hickman is on the road every day of the week.

"Wearing a suit every day. A couple of weeks ago, with the heat index, it was around 110 degrees. As soon as the car gets cooled down, I have to get out of the car," said Hickman, a hyperhidrosis patient.

So you can imagine how excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, affected his work. He went through a pack of undershirts every week.

"People don't talk about hyperhidrosis, but it's a frustrating thing," said Dr. William Patrick Coleman, Coleman Center for Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery.

Until recently, people had two long-lasting options: Botox injections every six months to paralyze the sweat glands; or, with liposuction, doctors could surgically remove the sweat glands.

Now another option is microwaving the sweat glands with a minimally invasive procedure called miraDry. It uses heat energy to kill the sweat glands from the inside out.

"Think about when you microwave something in your oven," said Coleman. "You can definitely treat the inside of it without burning the outside of it. So this is trying to not irritate the skin on top, while irritating the sweat glands."

Coleman's clinic is one of four places in the U.S. currently doing the procedure.

"This is a template we use to guide," said Coleman.

A temporary tattoo is used to pinpoint the glands. Local anesthesia is injected. A computer guides the doctor where to pinpoint the energy.

"It's suctioning the skin up into the area and it's treating it with short-wave microwaves," said Coleman.

Greta Roos, undergoing her second and final treatment, has suffered with excessive sweating since she was a teen.

"I would say like 80 percent of it is gone," said Roos.

Swelling, sensitivity and irritation for a week happens, according to most patients. But after that?

"It was immediate -- like, no sweating whatsoever," said Roos.

"It's really changed my life," said Stephen Hickman.

Doctors tell us we sweat to cool ourselves off. In fact we have 2 million sweat glands in our bodies. So by losing the glands in their armpits, patients are not at risk, as their bodies will still perspire.

Most patients need two treatments, about three months apart. The cost is $3,000 and takes about an hour each visit.