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In The Media

Should You Botox Your Armpits? A Sweaty Investigation

Woman disgusted at her own sweating on white backgroundCan a simple injection stop you from sweating through your shirt?

Yes, it is hot in here, and no it’s not just you. But each person’s sweat quotient is as unique as their thumbprint, and some people are definitely sweatier under the arms than others.

Approximately 3 percent of Canadians suffer from a condition known as hyperhidrosis, broadly defined by the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) as “a disorder that defines individuals who sweat more than the body would normally need to maintain optimal temperature.” But lo, there’s a treatment that can help — one that a) isn’t “many towels,” and b) has long been injected elsewhere on the body by regular women and Real Housewives alike: Botox.

Read on to find out whether a needle to the pit is the solution to your perspiratory woes.

How do I know if my level of sweat is a crazy amount of sweat?
“It’s a quality of life issue,” says Dr. Darren Ezer, a trained anesthesiologist employed at the Toronto Sweat Clinic. Ezer says that while “excess sweat” is a subjective judgment (“because everybody sweats”), there are some general signs of a problem: Does your underarm situation cause you to leave social situations? Do you have to change your shirts multiple times a day? Are you soaking through your clothes without exerting yourself? Per the CDA, excess sweat can cause your work productivity, confidence and wardrobe to take a huge hit. “Those are people who we’d [diagnose] with moderate-to-severe hyperhidrosis, and who would be candidates for Botox.”

Botox? Really?
Yes, really. The known forehead-wrinkle-fixing neurotoxin has been employed for more than two decades as a Health Canada–approved treatment for excess underarm sweat.

How does it work?
Dr. Anatoli Freiman of the Toronto Dermatology Centre explains that injections of Botox “inhibit nerve transmission to the sweat glands under your arms, slowing down the production of sweat and reducing output by as much as 90 percent.” It might not totally eliminate the need for anti-perspirant, but that’s a personal judgment call.

How much does it cost?
The treatment is covered by most third-party insurance providers, but runs up to $1,000 without coverage. A doctor’s referral isn’t necessary, but Ezer says it’s worth talking to your physician if you think your sweat quotient is excessive. (You don’t need to suffer from hyperhidrosis to seek out a Botox injection, but you’d probably find it unnecessary.)

What’s the procedure like?
“As far as needle-based procedures, it’s not very painful at all,” Ezer says. Clinicians may apply a topical numbing cream to start, though this is relatively uncommon. Then a very thin, small needle is used to inject about 100 to 150 units of Botox in each armpit. The entire procedure takes less than 10 minutes, and patients can go back to work right afterwards. The effects last between six to eight months.

Are there side effects?
Generally, says Ezer, “it’s very well tolerated,” as the risk of bruising and infection is very low. Also, there is no strong evidence of “compensatory sweating.” (Read: You won’t start sweating more out of your back to compensate for your less-sweaty armpits.) Botox also won’t inhibit your body’s ability to excrete toxins, notes Dr. Freiman. That said, patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have certain neurological disorders (like Myasthenia Gravis and Eaton Lambert Syndrome) or those who are allergic to albumin should not receive Botox. All told, the only expected effect is that, according to Dr. Ezer, “you’ll start sweating like a normal person — a normal sweater.”

Credit: Katie Underwood, Chatelaine.com

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