Cameran Eubanks recently opened up to Health about what it's like to have hyperhidrosis.
Fans of Bravo’s Southern Charm know Cameran Eubanks as a down-to-earth real estate agent and a new mom. But what they probably don’t know is that since she was 8, Eubanks has suffered from excessive sweating—a diagnosable medical condition (really!) called hyperhidrosis.
Eubanks spoke with Health over the phone in the week leading up to her first public appearance opening up about the condition, which affects around 15 million people in the United States. She then shared her story at the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual meeting in San Diego this weekend.
"My mother noticed that I was excessively sweating for an 8-year-old," Eubanks tells Health. Her mother brought her to a doctor, but neither of them knew there was such a condition as hyperhidrosis. While excessive sweating does seem to run in families, her relatives didn't share her symptoms. "My mother had never had any experience with it, but she knew something was not right about an 8-year-old perspiring the way that I did." Her sweat was soaking through clothing on a regular basis, she says.
People with hyperhidrosis really do produce a lot of sweat, says Adam Friedman, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences. "It’s about four times more sweat than one needs to regulate body temperature," he explains to Health. We all have to sweat, but hyperhidrosis is truly excessive and abnormal. "It occurs whether you’re hot or cold; it comes on without any rhyme or reason."
And it makes daily life more stressful too. "There are so many things we do every day—opening doors, holding the railing in the subway or the bus, shaking hands," he says. "These activities are sources of tremendous stress for patients with hyperhidrosis," since in some people, their palms could literally be dripping. For patients with underarm or full-body excessive sweating, picking out clothing can be fraught: "A certain color or fabric will show sweat more," Dr. Friedman explains.
In severe cases, people with hyperhidrosis might find themselves limiting social interactions or facing ridicule or pressure at work. "In certain professions, excessive sweating could be seen as nervousness or low confidence," says Dr. Friedman. "When this medical problem is misinterpreted, it only adds more anxiety, stress, and ostracism."
Eubanks tried everything she could to hide her condition. "I really didn’t talk about it, I was embarrassed about it," she says. When she first went to the doctor about her excessive sweating, she was told to start wearing deodorant. "I remember thinking it was cool because it was something other little girls didn’t get to do," she recalls. "I felt special." It wasn’t until she was older that the diagnosis really sunk in. "Little did I know at the time this was an actual condition that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life."
Today, Eubanks mostly manages her hyperhidrosis with clothing choices. "I pick breathable materials dark in nature so it doesn’t show sweat, and I change clothes pretty often," she says. "I tend to always have paper towels, tissues, or an extra set of clothes on hand."
Other people with hyperhidrosis might need more medical treatment, Dr. Friedman explains, including clinical-strength antiperspirant, prescription medications, or even Botox. "What’s happening in hyperhidrosis is the nerves that send signals to sweat glands to sweat are way too chatty, and we don’t really know why that is," he says. Medications and Botox work by blocking those nerve signals, he explains. Some patients even resort to surgery to remove the overactive sweat glands in question, but all of these treatments come with side effects, Dr. Friedman notes. He’s hopeful for new topical and oral treatment options "coming down the pipeline quickly."
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In the meantime, Eubanks hopes that speaking out about her own experience can help shed some of the stigma surrounding excessive sweating for others. "I think one of the most misunderstood parts of having this condition is that you are unclean, you don’t shower, you don’t have good personal hygiene, and it has absolutely nothing to do with that," she says. "I want people to know this is not something to be embarrassed of, that you’re not alone, and there is information out there about this condition to help you."
If you think you might sweat excessively, Dr. Friedman recommends a little self-reflection. "Someone could ask themselves: Do I change my shirt multiple times a day? Do I worry about my sweating? Does it make me worry about social interactions?" he says. "If it’s bothering you enough that you’re taking notice, then it’s probably not normal."
Bring those concerns to a dermatologist, he says; primary care doctors and other specialists may be more likely to shrug off your sweating as heavy, sure, but ultimately normal. You can find a list of physicians who specialize in hyperhidrosis at the International Hyperhidrosis Society’s website SweatHelp.org or try a self-assessment questionnaire at CheckYourSweat.com.
Finding out there’s a medical name for your excessive sweating can feel liberating. "So many patients start crying when I tell them this is a true medical condition," Dr. Friedman says. "It validates everything the person’s going through."