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No Sweat Surgery

On this season's Real Housewives of Potomac I shared the fact that I had a surgery when I was in my early 20's to get rid of a condition that always bothered me growing up, sweaty palms. The medical condition is called Hyperhidrosis. For people who are suffering from it, they may have excessive sweating usually targeting one area, like hands, feet or armpits. Mine was always in my hands, which was annoying and embarrassing. It was also somewhat debilitating for me growing up because I was a piano player. There is really no way to get rid of the problem, but to have surgery. Prior to that I would compensate by always holding a cold soda in my hands or wearing fingerless gloves. It was a really lame way to compensate but people with sweaty palms know, you do whatever necessary to hide the problem. It presented a challenge everyday and made me anxious about having to shake hands with people, so I would avoid physical contact as much as possible. I hated it and saw it as an obvious physical sign of weakness. It didn't just happen if I was nervous or if it was really hot outside. It was all the time! So at 23 years old, I saved up some money, went to a physician in Dallas, Texas who specialized in ETS (Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy) and tackled the problem head on. This surgical intervention involves cutting nerves that carry messages to the sweat glands.

The operation This operation is performed under general anaesthetic. A small incision is made beneath the armpit or under the breast. The lung, on the side being operated on, is allowed to collapse a little to help make room for the operation. Your other lung remains intact and is capable of doing all the work. A camera on a thin telescope is put into the chest, and the nerves which are to be divided are found. One other small hole may be made to put in the instruments that divide the nerves, although this can also be done using the same hole as for the camera. After the nerves have been cut, the lung is re-expanded and the instruments removed. Sometimes a small drain (plastic tube) is left in the chest for a few hours to make sure all the air is removed from the chest cavity.

How successful is it? ETS is very effective at stopping sweating of the hands in over 95% of cases; it is slightly less effective at stopping sweating in the armpits (about 85%)

My experience with the surgery is that it was a fast procedure and the results were immediate. I went to sleep on the anaesthesia with sweaty hands and woke up with no ability to sweat from my hands-- at all. It was a miracle. I believe the surgery cost about $6,000. I had a freckle size scar under each breast, that is completely invisible now.

A google search should direct people in different areas to suitable ETS physicians. I can't remember who did mine as it was so many years ago. Feel free to comment and ask me questions.

- Katie

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