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Iontophoresis


Definition:

Iontophoresis is the passage of an electrical current onto the skin. Iontophoresis has a variety of uses in medicine. This article discusses the use of iontophoresis to decrease sweating by turning off a sweat gland or glands.

Description:

The area to be treated is placed into water. A gentle current of electricity passes through the water. A technician carefully and gradually increases the electrical current until you feel a light tingling sensation.

The therapy lasts about 10-20 minutes and requires several sessions.

How iontophoresis works isn't exactly known, but it's thought that the process somehow plugs the sweat glands and temporarily prevents you from sweating.

Iontophoresis units are also available for home use.

Why the Procedure Is Performed:

Iontophoresis may be used to treat excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) of the hands, underarms, and feet. Iontophoresis has been effectively used to treat such sweating since the early 1950s.

Risks:

Side effects are rare but may include skin irritation, dryness and blistering.

References:

Thomas I. Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis: a therapeutic challenge. Am Fam Physician. Mar 1 2004; 69(5): 1117-20.

Goetz, CG. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2003.


Review Date: 5/13/2011
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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