Tool Measures Sweat to Gauge Problem and Effectiveness of Treatment
Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis. “Hyperhidrosis is really a disabling malady,” said David Larson, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin plastic surgeon.
Patients often have difficulty performing normal activities and many avoid personal interactions. Effective treatments are available, but measuring improvement is difficult. Recently, physicians at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin began using an instrument that precisely quantifies sweating disorders.
For example, Dr. Larson treats patients who experience excessive underarm sweating, but the challenge has been measuring the significance of the disorder. “We would ask patients to rate specific problems on a 10-point scale, but it was all very subjective.”
Last year, Dr. Larson became one of the first plastic surgeons in the United States to use a VapoMeter, a handheld instrument that measures the relative humidity of skin. “We average three readings in different areas of the armpit,” he said. “We then measure a control area, usually the skin of the inner arm.”
Any reading above 150 shows a significant problem, but the real indicator is the comparison of the armpit to the control area. A reading that is five to 25 times greater than the control is an indicator that the patient is a candidate for a minimally invasive surgery that removes the sweat glands of the armpit. The VapoMeter lets a physician objectively measure if the surgery improved the condition for the patient.
“One young woman I recently treated had a pre-surgery reading close to 800. Afterward, she was in the normal range with a reading of 22 following the surgery,” Dr. Larson said. Of course, the patient did not need a number to feel the dramatic improvement. “She told me the procedure changed her life.”
Date: May 2010
Online Editor(s): Robin Schultz