Lasers are having a profound effect on our lives and have revolutionized the practice of medicine and surgery. But did you know that lasers are also used to treat excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) of the underarms (axilla)?
A laser can be focused into a very narrow beam, targeting specific body structures without injuring surrounding tissue. This makes laser therapy both powerful and precise – much more precise, in fact, than more traditional surgical tools. The heat from lasers also helps to reduce infection risks and to seal blood vessels to help prevent bleeding. Laser procedures can thus be done faster with quicker recovery than some other types of procedures, meaning you can go home, or even back to work, soon after your treatment is over.
How is the procedure performed ?
The area of excessive sweating is marked on the skin by performing an iodine and starch test. Local anaesthetic is used to completely numb the area-Fine needles will be used to administer a very dilute solution of local anaesthesia while you will be chatting with the team. The advantages of this technique are-
it avoids use of general anaesthesia
in-office procedure. Hospitalisation is not required
it constricts blood vessels minimising bleeding
it results in prolonged pain relief after the procedure
fluid washes out gradually and reduces chance of blood collection [haematoma]
it is antibacterial and reduces possibility of infection
Two small needle punctures are made, it is a no knife procedure and stitches are not required as openings are so small. The laser fibre is introduced under the skin and the laser is activated, destroying the sweat glands. Finally destroyed sweat glands are removed by gentle suction using a fine canula.
What results can I expect ?
This is a relatively new procedure and most studies are small but show a sweat reduction of 80%. Some increase in sweating can be expected at 6 months and a few patients may require a second procedure at 1 year. It is believed that we do not grow new sweat glands so the results of this procedure should be long lasting.
What are the alternative ?
Medical treatments such as antiperspirants, iontophoresis etc
Botulinum toxin injections- quick and effective
Suction curettage- slightly more invasive
Excision or removal of sweat glands-a bigger operation
Sympathectomy- A more involved operation that can have very unpleasant side-effects. In our opinion there are much better options available now so this operation for hyperhidrosis should be in history books!