Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

'The end for my sweaty armpits'


Watch the operation

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

As a restaurant manager Richard Brydon is very aware of the importance of presenting a good image to customers.

But when it came to presenting himself Richard faced a huge problem.

For the past five years he has suffered from axillary hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating from the armpits.

Whereas most people sweat just one ml per hour, people with severe hyperhidrosis, like Richard, have around three times this level and the sweat cannot evaporate leaving clothes badly stained, unsightly and often smelly.

UK first

Richard tried a number of treatments, from heavy duty topical preparations, which can be rubbed on, to botox injections.

But in increasing desperation he turned to surgery - this month becoming the first person in the UK to have a new operation - laser sweat ablation (LSA) - to remove the sweat glands from his armpits.

Consultant Mark Whiteley, who carried out the operation, said that unlike other treatments LSA offered a permanent solution to excess sweating in up to 80% of patients.

If I am at a restaurant or a bar I do not want my waiter leaning across with a sweat patch
Richard Brydon

"It is minimally invasive," said Mr Whiteley.

"The patient will be able to return to their normal activities within hours of the treatment and will be fully recovered after four to seven days."

Richard, 28, from Guildford said his problem had become so bad he had taken to wearing jumpers so people would not notice the marks.

"I have been suffering from excessively sweaty armpits for over five years and it makes me feel very self-conscious," he said.

"I am a restaurant manager and you are conscious of it when you are leaning over a table.

"If I am at a restaurant or a bar I do not want my waiter leaning across with a sweat patch.

"It is an embarrassment going out socially as well, but as you can wear whatever you want socially there are more possibilities to cover it up.

"The sweating has not stopped me doing anything as I am too stubborn to let it, but every time that I did go out, I was aware that I had the problem and it did affect my behaviour."


He says if the operation works it will transform his life.

"I tried botox injections for a while but they are very expensive and only give a temporary result," he said.

"It will be a great relief never to have to worry about sweat patches appearing on my clothes ever again."

Mr Whiteley said the operation, which is not currently available on the NHS, costs around 3,500 and takes just over an hour under local anaesthetic.

The skin and fat layer are separated with a dissection tool and a laser probe is used to kill the sweat glands. A suction catheter then sucks out the dead tissue.

The sympathetic nerves, which become more active during stress, then have nothing to work with.

Mr Mark Whiteley
This was the first UK operation of this type

The patient then has to wear a compression coat for three days and nights to allow the skin to heal.

And Mr Whiteley said the results should be instant.

"With a treatment time of around one hour under local anaesthetic, the new anti-sweating laser treatment will transform people's lives, enabling them to stop such heavy levels of sweating from their armpits with immediate effect," he said.

"The treatment will reduce their sweat to minimal levels that can evaporate naturally.

"I have several patients who sweat so much that they actually rot their clothes, they can't wear certain clothes or have to wear jackets. They really do sweat nastily and smell.

"We do try everything before we try surgery though.

"We try various preparations such as those roll-on deodorants with aluminium but people can get skin reactions to those.

"But we do get a group of patients for whom nothing topical will work - this is ruining their lives."

Excess sweat

Mr Whiteley said the technique has been used in Argentina for the past seven years and that the results had been impressive, which is why he decided to introduce into the UK as an alternative to botox or much more invasive surgery.

And he said it should prove welcome news for the 5% of the population, like Richard, with the problem.

Although still waiting to see whether his own operation has worked Richard said he had been very impressed that the operation had gone so smoothly with relatively little pain.

"I did wake up in pain the morning after the operation and needed to take some paracetamol but the operation went well," he said.

Professor Christopher Mathias, an expert in neurovascular medicine at the University of London, said the numbers of patients referred with severe sweating problems had increased as doctors took it more seriously.

But he said surgery such as Richard's should be a last resort, as questions about its impact remained.

"I would need to see the scientific papers on this operation as there are a few things which puzzle me.

"I would also want to know what the limitations are and whether there are any side effects or any problems. There may be none of course, but I would want to know.

"I would also want to know how it benefits the patient and see the results in the short-term, medium term and long term."

Print Sponsor

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