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Iontophoresis

Definition

Iontophoresis is the process of passing a weak electrical current through the skin. Iontophoresis has a variety of uses in medicine. This article discusses the use of iontophoresis to decrease sweating by blocking sweat glands.

Alternative Names

Hyperhidrosis - iontophoresis; Excessive sweating - iontophoresis

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 30 minutes and requires several sessions each week.

How iontophoresis works is not exactly known. It is thought that the process somehow plugs the sweat glands and temporarily prevents you from sweating.

Iontophoresis units are also available for home use. If you use a unit at home, be sure to follow the instructions that come with the machine.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Iontophoresis may be used to treat excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) of the hands, underarms, and feet.

Risks

Side effects are rare, but may include skin irritation, dryness, and blistering. Tingling may continue even after the treatment has ended.

References

Langtry JAA. Hyperhidrosis. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson IH, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 109.

Pollack SV. Electrosurgery. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 140.


Review Date: 4/16/2019
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional 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. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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