Rexburg, Idaho Man Turns to Surgery As Treatment for Excessive Sweating

H e y , N o S w e a t

Story by Brain Davidson 
Post Register

Hey, No Sweat - Rexburg, Idaho Man Turns To Surgery As Treatment for Excessive Sweating

0REXBURG - Rod Steiner doesn't perspire. He sweats.  "Rivers, not drips," he said. "I love to mountain bike, and there were times I could take my helmet off, squeeze the padding and have sweat just pour out of it."
 When he went to Atlanta Braves baseball games while living in Georgia, where he worked as an engineering consultant, he'd sweat profusely, soak a shirt and overhear people behind him say, "Wow. Look at the sweat on that guy."
 Even in church, he was careful to sit where he had a lot of air around him. "If I ended up sitting too close to other people, I'd get too hot and the sweat would just drip off my nose," he said.
 Even after he and his wife, Rolynda, moved back to his native Rexburg, he couldn't beat the heat. Even in winter.
 "I'd go outside and shovel snow and chip ice out of my driveway, wearing only sweats and a T-shirt, in 15-degree weather," he said. "I felt comfortable. The neighbors thought I was crazy."
 He doesn't sweat like that any more.
 A year ago, Steiner underwent surgery - say this five times fast - Single one-twelfth-inch incision Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy. The procedure stopped his excessive sweating - called hyperhidrosis - as quickly and efficiently as if someone had flipped a switch.
 He's among a small number of people who suffer from the disease.
Hyperhidrosis affects just .01 percent of the U.S. population or about 2.9 million people, according to estimates.  Those of Oriental heritage, for some reason, have a higher prelediction for the physical conditions that cause hyperhidrosis.
 Until surgery, treatments for hyperhidrosis ranged from special antiperspirants to Botulinum Toxin injections. Now some sufferers like Steiner see a more permanent solution and are seeking out surgeons like Dr. David Nielson, of Texas, who has ties to eastern Idaho.
"This procedure makes a dramatic difference," said Nielson, whose inlaws live just a few houses away from Steiner. "It can be life-changing in so many ways." The procedure involves cutting certain branches of the body's sympathetic nervous system that doctors believe are over stimulated in people who suffer from hyperhidrosis and other conditions, including excessive facial blushing and Raynauds, or cold, clammy hands.
 When Steiner first heard about the operation, he was skeptical.  "I thought for sure that this thing wouldn't work for me," he said. But he kept thinking about it, and eventually contacted Nielson through his Web site,
Nielson said he deals a lot with skeptical patients.
 "A lot of them are desperate," he said. Excessive sweating, especially if it includes the hands and face, can be incredibly troublesome, he added. He treated one 8-year-old girl who sweated so excessively she was ruining the papers she had to deal with at school. "She'd sweat and the paper would literally fall apart in her hands," he said. "Typically, these kinds of things will be downplayed.  People will be told it's all in
their heads.  They're told they're too anxious, and not to worry so much."
Steiner knows differently.
 His excessive sweating was more of an embarrassment and a discomfort than anything else, but he quickly realized he was altering the way he wanted to live life to reduce the inconvenience of his hyperhidrosis. "I started planning my life around this. I adapted my schedule to avoid
situations where I might get too warm, or too embarrassed, but it was making life inefficient," he said.
"If we were invited to a picnic and I knew it was going to be warm, I wouldn't go."
 After living for four years in Arizona and three in Georgia, he and his wife moved back to Rexburg to go into business for themselves, and to beat the heat. "That was one of the big reasons we moved back here," he said. "We get a longer season of cold here, and I'd be better off. Eight months of winter sounded pretty good."
 Since he had the Micro ETS procedure last May, however, he feels his life is his own again.
 "It doesn't make me that I don't sweat at all, but it's brought me back to normal," he said. Normal, of course, is relative. He and his wife welcomed triplets - two girls and a boy - into their home five months ago. "We're only now getting to the point where they're all sleeping through the night," he said.
 The procedure does cause some side effects, though Steiner say's they're minor inconveniences compared to the profuse sweating he experienced before the surgery. Steiner, like many others who undergo Micro ETS, has to apply lotion to his hands and feet daily, because the sweat and oil that used to keep his skin moist is gone in those areas.
 Steiner also notices he has to drink a lot more water than he used to. "If I'm doing something strenuous, I've got to have a lot of water with me," he said. "I also sweat more on my stomach, my back, my legs," he said. "But it's worth it. If I had to decide to do it all over again, I'd still do it."

Upper Valley reporter/editor Brian Davidson may be contacted at the Post Register's Rexburg office at 656-0101.
or via e-mail at

Stopping The Sweating
Sweating in the hands, feet and head is controlled by certain branches of the body's sympathetic nervous system. Doctors believe that in patients who suffer from hyperhidrosis, these nerve branches are over stimulated by minor stress, variations in
temperature and other factors, making the person sweat even in a cool room or at the mere thought of doing something that might cause stress or embarrassment.

Dr. David Nielson and other doctors have developed techniques to identify and cut that sympathetic nerve branch, cutting off the stimulation.
 The body is still able to cool itself, through evaporative sweating on other parts of the body, he said. Nielson's procedure, called Micro ETS, involved making two one-twelfth-inch incisions, one in each armpit. An endoscope, or fiber optic camera, is inserted into the incision to help the doctor find the right nerves to cut. The nerves are cut and cauterized, or burned, to prevent the nerve endings from reconnecting.
 The operation is done with a general anesthetic on an outpatient basis, meaning patients are discharged from the hospital the same day the surgery is performed.
Nielson estimates he's performed about 2,500 Micro ETS procedures since he started doing them seven years ago. The procedure is also helpful in eliminating excessive facial blushing and a condition called Raynauds, or cold, clammy hands.
 There are other treatments for these three conditions, including lotions, antiperspirants, oral medication and Botulinum Toxin injections, but their
effectiveness varies from person to person and can diminish over time.
 For more information on hyperhidrosis, consult your family physician or check out Dr. David Nielson's Web site at

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