IONTOPHORESIS has proved to be a very effective treatment for excessive sweating of the hands (palmar hyperhidrosis) and feet (plantar hyperhidrosis), and pads are now available for armpits (axillary hyperhidrosis) as well. If you do not get a successful result using aluminium chloride antiperspirants, then, if you suffer from hyperhidrosis of the hands, feet or axillae, you will probably be referred to a Dermatologist for iontophoresis.Please see this video The ONE Show - Iontophoresis
Although the exact mechanism for the effects of tap water iontophoresis on hyperhidrosis remains uncertain, there are a number of theories of why it is effective for hyperhidrosis.
The hands and/or feet are placed in shallow plastic trays which are filled with water, and connected to an iontophoresis machine. A low intensity electrical current is passed through the hands and/or feet. For armpits, axillae electrodes and pads attached to the iontophoresis machine are placed under the arm.
The treatment takes 20 to 30 minutes, and is totally pain-free. The user only feels a 'pins and needles' sensation in the hands or feet and armpits.
For the first two weeks, treatments are given every few days (see Iontophoresis treatment schedule), and nearly all patients find that they have stopped sweating after 4-7 treatments. After this, a maintenance treatment is recommended as soon as the affected areas start to become clammy, and before sweating starts again. A regular maintenance treatment is then needed, anything from twice a week to once a month or so. Most people find a 20 minute treatment once a week successfully controls their symptoms. Iontophoresis treatment can be done as many times as necessary, is cheap, and completely safe.
Until recently iontophoresis was only carried out in hospital dermatology departments, requiring a trip to hospital for each treatment. This can be time-consuming and impractical for some. However, smaller battery powered machines can now be bought for home use if you find the treatment works for you, see www.iontophoresis.info. Prices range from £320 - £500, and if you have been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis you may be eligible for VAT exemption.
Machines that plug into the mains electricity supply are not recommended. Before you buy a machine, you should take advice from the specialist who recommended iontophoresis for you.
In some areas the tap water can be too soft for iontophoresis to be effective. If you live in a very soft water area and find iontophoresis doesn't work for you, then try adding 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Using bottled Badoit water (available in most supermarkets) can have the same effect.
Tap water iontophoresis works for 85% of patients. For the few patients who do not get complete relief with tap water iontophoresis, a drug called Glycopyrronium Bromide (Robinul) (available on prescription) can be added to the tap water and will give good results.
There are generally no side effects, although it is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines to avoid mild burns and spasms of electrical current occurring.
Some people may experience irritation and redness along the water line. Apply 1% Hydrocortisone cream (available from pharmacies) immediately after the treatment.
If the current used for underarms is too high, or the axillae pad is not wet enough, redness and small blisters may occur.
It is wise to cover any open wounds (cuts, hangnails etc.) with petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) before treatment.
Keep your hands well moisturised if you are having regular iontophoresis.
You should not have iontophoresis if you are pregnant, have a metal implant (such as a joint replacement), or if you have a cardiac pacemaker or similar device.
Many hospital dermatology departments offer a course of iontophoresis treatment, and you can ask your GP for a referral.
If your GP can't find a hospital that carries out iontophoresis, contact us with details of where you live and we may be able to help. A good source of information on iontophoresis can be found on: www.iontophoresis.info