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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.
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