My Life as a Clam Person: Sweaty Hands and Primary Hyperhidrosis
"I have thought about cutting my hands off often while being drunk." - Random YouTube Commentator
I don't sweat much - hardly ever, really. In fact, I didn't even need to wear deodorant until I was 14. I don't care if you think that's gross; it simply wasn't a requirement for mid-pubescent Kyle, and truthfully, I barely need it now. This probably has a lot to do with my excessive laziness, but even when I'm slaying the jungle that has become my backyard, there's simply not much perspiration happening. This is especially strange because I generally run pretty hot. I'm good with just a sweater in the winter, and I dread the danky, moist, swampy Ides of July. My electric bill is doubled by my incessant AC usage, and I'm suspicious of two-piece flannel pajamas, not to mention the people who wear them.
Now that I've bared my soul a bit, I feel compelled to admit something. I lied. I do sweat. I sweat profusely. Or rather, my hands sweat. A lot. All the time, in fact. I can't remember a time in my life when my hands weren't more or less glistening. Sure, there are brief periods of blessed dryness, but whenever I become cognizant of a lack of moisture on my palms, my sweat glands immediately kick into interstellar overdrive. There's no escaping this, so I've mostly come to peace with it over the years. Which is to say, I feel comfortable complaining about it on a public forum designed to elicit free discussion.
The road to digital reconciliation was a long one, however - one fraught with embarrassment, shame, and several extremely uncomfortable forays into adolescent romance. It took years to come to grips with my First World affliction. Holding hands during the closing prayer of Mass was an exercise in degradation, and there has been no more humiliating experience in my life than when Beth Bigelow looked at me in disgust when I cautiously reached over to lock palms during an intimate screening of The Blair Witch Project at the Alma Cinemas in 1999. Yup. Thanks, Beth. I wish I could say you were the only one grossed out my moist mitts, but the truth is you've only been one of many.
The only defense I now have against my blasted clam paws is to own them. In order to avoid the embarrassment, I have to wear it and share it with everyone, including you, gentle reader. However, as a means of lessening the revulsion so clearly written on your faces, perhaps this condition bears a little looking into.
Nobody wants to be gross. Or, at least, no one wants to feel insecure about their grossness. But sometimes, there's nothing we can do about it, and this is the case with consistently sweaty palms. Medically referred to as Primary Hyperhidrosis (PH), there's just not a great solution for those of us dealing with clammy hands. Unlike it's far more abominable counterpart General Hyperhidrosis (GH), PH is idiopathic in nature, meaning there's no root cause on which we can blame the condition. My hands don't sweat because I'm nervous or because I'm upset or because I'm hot. They sweat because that's what they've been programmed to do. There does seem to be a genetic connection, however, which makes good sense to me, given that my mother suffers from the same issue. (Sorry for throwing you under the bus there, Mom.)
Primary Hyperhidrosis affects 3% of the population, meaning that someone you know and love is probably hiding their dripping appendages - likely at this very moment. And, sadly, there are only a few beneficial treatment methods, most of these are topically applied symptom relievers rather than actual sustained management. Some people have found varying degrees of success with botox injections, anticholinergic drugs, or iontophoresis - a procedure in which the patient places their hands in a pool of water and is then subjected to gradually increasing electric shock. I'll pass.
This brings us to a surgical procedure known as Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy (ETS). Don't worry, silly. A scalpel wielding quack isn't really going to remove your ability to feel sympathy; he just wants to put you under anesthesia for a few hours and collapse one of your lungs before he begins slashing at your armpit to sever nerve function in the afflicted region (i.e. hands, feet, groin, etc.). Then he wants to repeat the procedure on the other side of your body. What could possibly go wrong? Well, according to the New York Times, this is what could go wrong:
- Blood collection in the chest
- Damage to arteries or nerves
- Horner Syndrome (Droopy eyelids and suspended facial sweating)
- Increased or new sweating (My favorite)
- Increased sweating in other areas of the body
In the words of the indefatigable Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.
Here's the worst part about owning a pair of incessantly dripping palms: They're not caused by anxiety, but they sure do cause a lot of it. How would you like to go into every single social function of your life knowing that your darkest secret is going to be exposed by the time you're allowed to retreat back into your sanctuary. That's right, whenever one of us clam people has to shake another person's hand, we know exactly what they're thinking. It's in the eyes.They're grossed out. Clam people disgust the average human, but there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. In fact, the anxiety of palm to flesh contact sucks two-fold: 1) We're obviously nervous about exposing the freakish moisture on our hands to an as-of-yet unsuspecting individual, and 2) That nervousness has a tendency to spiral out of control, providing additional moisture and creating a veritable reservoir in the creases of our hands! This obviously makes a successful first impression nearly impossible.
So what's the secret? How do we escape this? There isn't one, and we can't. Not really, anyway. So please, next time you come away from a cordial handshake with a slimy palm, have a little sympathy (at least no one is salivating at the thought of trying to cut yours out from through your armpits). Remember, your hands will dry in a matter of minutes, but we're doomed to an eternity of swampy phalanges. Cool it with the exaggerated horrified facial expressions and excessive palm wiping. We get it, okay? We may be clam people, but we're all human.
Here's looking at you fist bump! POUND IT!