Since puberty, I’ve dealt with the condition cranial hyperhidrosis — sweating excessively on my face and head. After seeing a billboard for hyperhidrosis surgery in 2000, I was sold. Concealing crazy amounts of sweat was exhausting, and I finally found a solution — or so I thought.
In previous posts, I explain what ETS surgery is and my experience going under the knife. In part two of this series, I reveal hyperhidrosis surgery misconceptions and what you should really expect with this type of procedure.
The Initial Hyperhidrosis Surgery Consultation
During the first consultation, the doctor immediately diagnosed me with hyperhidrosis. I felt like I won the lottery; I had never heard that word before. For 10 years, doctors told me I had an anxiety condition and prescribed me countless medications that only left me dizzy and disoriented. These include:
- Anxiety medications like Xanax and Ativan
- Anti-depressants like Prozac and Tofranil
- Prescription antiperspirant on my face
I finally understood what was wrong, and it was liberating.
In the next meeting, we discussed the actual procedure, which sounded fairly simple. The doctor would cut a nerve in my chest cavity, and the surgery would last about an hour. Only light anesthesia was required.
The doctor explained that Horner syndrome is a potential side effect of cutting the nerve during hyperhidrosis surgery. But when a doctor says, “I can fix you,” droopy eyes and permanent pupil dilation don’t sound too bad.
Eventually we scheduled a procedure date.
Surgery Day: My First Experience With Phantom Sweating
Just 30 minutes after surgery, the doctor sent me home with pain killers and instructed me to relax. I felt groggy but more surprising was the phantom sweating — or the feeling of sweating profusely. I would wipe my face repeatedly, but it was bone dry. I was stoked for about a week.
Post-Hyperhidrosis Surgery: The Sweat Returns
On day 8, I began noticing sweat on my chest. So I called the doctor for a follow-up consultation. It was summer, so the doctor reassured me the heat was to blame. I took his word and went home.
Flash-forward a few months later. My chest sweating had worsened — resulting in obvious sweat patches across my chest and torso. By the end of the summer, I went back to the surgeon. That was the first time he mentioned compensatory sweating as a side effect of hyperhidrosis surgery. He told me that sweating after surgery was rare. After researching compensatory sweating, I discovered that just wasn’t true.
By now I was wearing two layers of shirts — even in 100-degree weather. I always wore an undershirt to attempt to cover up the compensatory sweating.
Back to Prescription Medications for Hyperhidrosis
After returning to the surgeon a third time, he prescribed me Ditropan XL — a medication for overactive bladder. Ditropan XL dries up the entire body, preventing excess sweat in the process.
Learn more about oral medications for hyperhidrosis.
Some of the side effects I experienced with Ditropan XL include:
- Overall dryness
- Permanent cotton mouth
- Increased tendency to overheat (even light workouts would make me feel like passing out)
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty working and reading
I couldn’t stand the side effects of the medication. I felt tired and disoriented all day. After 2-3 months of adjusting the dosage, I gave up.
On my next visit to the surgeon, he prescribed the topical antiperspirant Drysol, which is basically a heavy dose of aluminum chloride.
He instructed me to apply the Drysol to my affected areas before bed then wrap my torso in saran wrap. It sounded insane, but then again, I was desperate.
Imagine going through this nightly routine: You shower, apply a solution that smells like metal, wrap yourself up like a human sausage and try to sleep for 6-8 hours while the solution takes effect.
In the morning, you have to neutralize the solution by powdering your body with baking soda. That’s how harmful this solution is. Then you have to wash it off, and repeat every night.
By night 3, I was breaking out in rashes and had to stop.
Debunking Misconceptions of Hyperhidrosis Surgery
Going into hyperhidrosis surgery, I was young, and the procedure was relatively new. If I had known I’d be dealing with a more annoying sweat issue after surgery and back on prescription medications, I would not have gone through with surgery.
The procedure has likely advanced, but hyperhidrosis surgery is still serious and life-altering. Try absolutely everything before considering it, do your homework, talk to multiple doctors and dermatologists and be willing to live with the risks.
Have you found any alternatives to ETS surgery for hyperhidrosis? Let us know in the comments below.