The skin is liberally supplied with intricate network of sweat glands. They are referred to as the Eccrine Sweat Glands, and there are several million them all over the body. Although all parts of the skin are copiously supplied, they are concentrated mainly on the forehead, in the armpits on the palms of the hands and soles of feet.
The sweat glands are part of system’s heat regulatory mechanism: They react almost immediately to the stimulus of heat, which operates via the brain. It is essential that the body temperature be maintained between certain critical boundaries. Any rise above normal is quickly compensated through the sweating system. When these glands are stimulated fluids pour onto the skin surface where they dry almost instantly. This immediately draws heat from the body, and the temperature falls. A very delicate balance exists to keep body temperatures operatic, within the prescribed limits in this manner.
The fluid excreted is mainly water, however, it contains some salt (sodium chloride) and other chemicals called electrolytes. The volume of fluid that is perspired can reach high levels. On an average two hour period this can reach 10,000 ml. To give an indication of the amount, 5 ml approximately equals one teaspoonful so 500 ml is roughly equal to one glass, and 10,000 ml is about equal to 20 pints! On extremely hot days, or if prolonged hard physical activity is being undertaken, the daily volume can rise still further.
In areas where the humidity is high the sweat does not tend to evaporate from the skin surface. Therefore very uncomfortable feeling occurs. The feeling is sticky as salty water accumulates. Sweat may trickle down the face, under the arms and promote greater discomfort. It is not so common in hot, dry regions such as inland regions where humidity is appreciably lower than most coastal locations. Cramps commonly follow if sweating has been very profuse. This is due to the excessive loss of sodium chloride from the system, and is often relieved by an increased intake of salt in the diet.
A serious Sebaceous (oil-secreting) gland, Dermi Gland cells that secrete sweat cross-sections through the sweat gland known as cystic fibrosis, is often diagnosed by the excessive salt content of the patient’s sweat. There is a defect in sweat-gland function, but this is only an outward sign of an internal disorder. Many people are troubled by excessive sweating. It can be triggered by hot weather or emotional stress. Even in cool weather, many people perspire abnormally. Some find their feet sweat so heavily that new footwear is required every few weeks, because shoes fall apart so quickly with the continuing moisture! For these persons, abnormal sweating becomes a major problem.
When facetious remarks are made about the disability it does little to assist people with this problem, and little help is available. The following ideas may be of some assistance:
Temperature control: working in an area subject to regular air-conditioning may assist, but this is not the answer to the problem on a permanent basis.
Frequent bathing: this gives temporary relief, and helps to avert body odor that may be a common and embarrassing problem. But the sweating usually recommences soon afterwards, and this is a temporary measure only.
Antiperspirants: these are aimed at narrowing the ducts of sweat glands by chemical means. They assist mild cases only. They are of little value for the excessive perspiration.
Vitamin C: some find that large daily doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid)-1,000 mg once or twice dailysometimes helps.
Simple remedies rarely (if ever) cure this disorder. Most finally arrive at the doctor’s surgery for advice.
The professional lines available are:
Sympathectomy: this is a form of treatment offering a complete and permanent result. The nerve that supplies the sweat glands is surgically severed. The result is a complete absence of sweating in the offending part(s) supplied from that time forth. Some believe this is a radical measure for a simple symptom, but patients treated often prefer this. Some complain of being “too dry” following the operation. This operation is performed by a surgeon or neurosurgeon. Surgical removal of the skin and sweat glands is also being successfully used in some suitable patients.
Removal of sweat glands: Surgical removal of a triangular area of skin in the armpit is often effective. The application of Aluminium Chloride Hexahydrate (if available) periodically painted on locally is recommended. The daily washing of the armpits with a rough rag for at least five minutes helps.
There are IT medicaments of value for this. The anticholinergics and others expected on theoretical grounds to cure must be given as too high for convenience. They produce side reactions that may be unacceptable and they are not generally used for this purpose. Relaxation is often successful in the long-term.
Of course, if you want to learn much more about the skin diseases as well as most other body illnesses, we can only advise you to check with some of the other information we have prepared. Probably the best reference guide of all is Volumes 3-5 of Family Medical Care, which covers the whole spectrum of conditions and medical care of family illnesses. These are available from the same publishers of this book.
We have already dealt with sunburn, but I think it should have a further brief mention here. Agreed?
Agreed, for it is very important and may be classified as an accident. In Chapter 13, “Strange Conditions of the Skin” we set out the salient items about sunburn and the treatment. I wish to reemphasize that children’s skin is prone to burning, so take adequate precautions against sunburn. Many children brown up quickly also, but when it is soft and tender and lilywhite, it may burn rapidly, often within minutes of exposure to the hot sun. Never leave a baby or child in the sun unattended. Sun kicks are great for babies, but do remember that while they are kicking away probably in a birthday suit, they could be silently and stealthily sustaining sunburn. Also, remember that the ultraviolet rays of the sun bounce back from large masses of light-colored expanses, such as clouds, beaches, open paddocks and fields. Sunburn may occur in any of these situations, often when the child is oblivious to it all.
What’s the best treatment?
Apart from avoidance in the first case, application of cool packs is the best starting point. Repeat these often, using small folded towels placed in icy water wrung out, then placed over the burnt places. Plenty of fluids, ideally fresh fruit juices, will replace fluid loss. Add some vitamins. Paracetamol elixir is best for fevers and pain reduction. The dose will usually be printed on the label. Do not place skin applications on sunburn, for they may sensitize it, and seldom help. Avoid them, despite what your friends may say. Apply ultraviolet screeners to protect against sunburn, but after the event, they are useless.