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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 12:26 GMT
Parents 'hand down' sweaty palms
Sweaty hands
About 5% of the population suffers from sweaty palms
The embarrassing problem of a "clammy handshake" could be genetic, rather than a sign of nervousness, scientists claim.

However, it can be cured with "minimally invasive" surgery, they claim.

The US research team at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) say there is strong evidence to suggest "sweaty palm syndrome" is genetic and not nervous and affects 5% of the population.

This syndrome was thought of as stress-related and has not been taken seriously by the medical community

Dr Samuel Ahn
Dr Samuel Ahn of UCLA's division of vascular surgery said: "Traditionally, this syndrome was thought of as stress-related and has not been taken seriously by the medical community.

"This is one of the first studies helping to support that sweaty palms is a real physiological disorder that can be passed from generation to generation."

The condition, known as hyperhidrosis, which involves excessive sweating through the hands and feet, was previously thought to affect less than 1% of the population.

Researchers looked at the family histories of 49 patients with hyperhidrosis for the study and found 65% of patients reported family recurrence of the disorder.

However, in the control group of subjects, who did not suffer from sweaty palm syndrome, there were no reports of family recurrence.

Surgery success

The study, published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, found that if one parent has the disorder, children have a 28% risk of also having hyperhidrosis.

The condition can have debilitating effects and affect people's lives and careers.

Dr Ahn said the problem could result in a policeman "dropping a gun and having a suspect literally slip away, or a fireman not being able to pull a hose, or a banker unable to handle money due to severely sweating palms".

The scientists said however, they had pioneered a successful treatment for sweaty palms through "minimally invasive" surgery which involves a non-motor nerve to the hands being severed.

Dr Mark Whiteley, who treats patients at his clinics in the UK, has been using this type of surgery for several years and says it is 99 to 100% successful.

He said: "Most of us have thought there's a genetic link.

"This year alone I have had five or six young people come in to see me and if their parents are with them they often say they have it as well.

"I am very pleased to hear that a university has studied it and found a link."

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