What is iontophoresis?
Iontophoresis is the application of direct current.
It can be used to
introduce substances through the skin, but in the treatment of hyperhidrosis, the current alone is what is effective. This current is applied through the submersion in water. The result with several treatments is a reduction in excessive sweating. This is thought to be caused by a plugging of the sweat pores.
What is hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis is a condition whereby the body produces swear beyond what is necessary to maintain a normal body temperature. When this condition affects the hands or feet it is called palmer or plantar hyperhidrosis. People affected by this problem suffer social embarrassment and may be limited in some occupations where damp hands may soil or damage products. (ie. paper, metal, electrical components) Hyperhidrosis affects approximately 3% of the population.
What are the treatment options for hyperhidrosis?
There are several ways to treat hyperhidrosis. Many of these treatments are covered by medical plans. In order to find the best treatment for you, speak to your dermatologist. Possible treatment options are as follows:
- Topical treatments: the application of aluminum chloride hexahydrate has been shown in clinical studies to reduce swearing by approximately 50% for mild hyperhidrosis sufferers.
- Iontophoresis: iontophoresis is appropriate for people who suffer from hyperhidrosis affecting the hands or feet. This application is not recommended for underarm or head/facial hyperhidrosis.
- Botulinum toxin type A: Botox injections are appropriate for moderate to severe hyperhidrosis sufferers.Injection is done into the affected area and is effective for as long as the nerve to the sweat glad is deadened. Percentage reduction in sweating using this method was reported to be 83% in 95% of people studied. The average duration of effect is 7 months until symptoms recur.
- Surgery: this is a last resort for people whose lifestyles are seriously affected by hyperhidrosis and for whom other more conservative methods have failed.
Is iontophoresis for hyperhidrosis safe?
Iontophoresis as a method of introducing substances through the skin has been performed since the 1930's. In 1952 is was found that a therapeutic effect could be achieved without introducing substances through the skin. The electric current alone was effective in reducing sweating in 85% of people with hyperhidrosis. See contraindications below.
What are the side effects of iontophoresis?
Side effects of iontophoresis are few:
- Palms or feet may occasionally become too dry resulting in cracks or fissures. This can be relieved with the use of moisturizers.
- Redness of the skin is not uncommon, but occasionally hives may form. This can be treated with a hydrocortisone cream.
What are the contraindications of iontophoresis?
To ensure you are a suitable candidate for iontophoresis for hyperhidrosis you must not:
- be pregnant
- have a cardiac pacemaker
- have cancer
- have swollen, broken, or inflamed skin on the areas to be treated
- have metal implants in the area to be treated
How many treatments are required to treat hyperhidrosis? Sessions last 20 minutes for hands, 40 minutes for hands and feet. Research has shown that optimum results are obtained with 5 to 10 treatments administered every 2 to 3 days initially. After that, frequency is dependent on how symptoms recur. Sometimes one treatment every two weeks is enough to keep symptoms at bay.
Does iontophoresis hurt?
The current can feel uncomfortable or itchy, but should not be unbearable.
What does iontophoresis for hyperhidrosis cost?
Treatments at the Baywood Physiotherapy and Athletic Injury Centre
location in Ajax are as follows:
Hands or feet: $40 per visit
Hands and feet $60 per visit
How successful is iontophoresis?
85% of individuals with hyperhidrosis will show improvement in their symptoms.
Is iontophoresis covered by my insurance plan?
If your insurance plan covers physiotherapy, then iontophoresis is covered at our clinic. Treatment is administered by a physiotherapist.
Stolman LP MD,FRCP(C) Treatment of Hyperhidrosis Dermatologic Clinics Oct 1998;16(4):863-69.
Thomas I. Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis: a therapeutic challenge. Am Fam Physician. Mar 1 2004; 69(5): 1117-20.