ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Imagine sweating so profusely that you destroy your clothes and feel embarrassed in public.
That's the curse of super sweaters, people suffering from a condition known as hyperhidrosis.
In moderate cases, the afflicted can usually get by with sweat shields, "sweatproof" clothing or strong anti-perspirants. For more severe cases, people turn to Botox, the same product used to reduce facial wrinkles.
When injected into the armpit, Botox temporarily blocks the chemical signals from the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for treating excessive sweating, but it's not covered by most insurances.
"The ones who have had it done are thrilled," said Dr. Leanne Cross of the Lecada Medical Artistry in South Tampa, Fla., which offers aesthetic and anti-aging treatments. "They tell me they aren't saturating their clothes, and they aren't embarrassed to go out on a date."
Each treatment costs about $1,000 based on the large amount of Botox used. Most armpits require an entire vial of 100 units compared with a few dozen for most facial procedures.
But Botox for sweating usually lasts longer than for antiwrinkling. Patients can go up eight months before excessive sweating returns.
Many say it's worth the cost. Sweat glands in the armpits, called apocrine glands, are among the nastiest. Aside from churning out a lot of sweat, they give off a stronger odor than other glands in the body.
Most patients report at least a 50 percent reduction in sweating.
For those with less severe sweating, here are some more common alternatives to Botox:
-- Over-the-counter antiperspirants containing aluminum-based compounds. The aluminum draws water into cells near the gland ducts, which swell and close so sweat can't get out. Generally, the higher the concentration of aluminum, the higher the effectiveness. Most contain about 15 percent. For higher concentrations, prescription formulas are available. Chemical-free, all-natural antiperspirants also are available but vary on effectiveness.
-- Disposable sweat shields. Call them what you want -- sweat pads, sweat guards, underarm shields, garment guards -- they all work pretty much the same. They stick onto the inside of shirts to absorb the moisture. Some are reusable. They are widely available online.
-- Sweatproof clothing. The name is a little misleading since nothing can prevent sweating. But there are water- and odor-resistant undershirts that can make sweating less noticeable, especially for people who sweat all over, not just their armpits.
Kleinert's and Under Armour are a few popular brands. Loose-fitting clothing made from natural, water-absorbent fibers, such as linen and cotton, also can minimize the appearance of sweat.