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UCLA study finds evidence that 'sweaty palms' syndrome is genetic and underreported

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  • Ian Pitchford
    Public release date: 28-Feb-2002 Contact: Rachel Champeau rchampeau@support.ucla.edu 310-794-0777 University of California - Los Angeles http://www.ucla.edu/
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1 12:30 AM
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      Public release date: 28-Feb-2002
      Contact: Rachel Champeau
      rchampeau@... 310-794-0777
      University of California - Los Angeles

      UCLA study finds evidence that 'sweaty palms' syndrome is genetic and

      Imagine being afraid to shake someone's hand, or to simply hold hands with a
      sweetheart. Beyond just embarrassing, "sweaty palms" syndrome is often a
      debilitating disorder that can affect one's work and life.

      A new UCLA study in the February issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery shows
      strong evidence that sweaty palms syndrome is genetic. It may be caused by a
      dominant gene - indicating that family members of those who have the disorder
      may suffer from it more than has been previously reported.

      "Traditionally, this syndrome was thought of as stress-related and has not been
      taken seriously by the medical community," said Dr. Samuel S. Ahn, principal
      investigator and professor, UCLA Division of Vascular Surgery. "This is one of
      the first studies helping to support that 'sweaty palms' is a real
      physiological disorder that can be passed from generation to generation."

      According to Ahn and his collaborators in the UCLA Department of Human
      Genetics, the study indicates that as much as 5 percent of the population may
      be at risk for some form of hyperhidrosis, commonly known as sweaty palms
      syndrome, which causes excessive sweating, most often in the hands and feet.
      Less than 1 percent of the population was previously thought to be affected.

      "Hyperhidrosis can truly affect one's life and career, such as a police officer
      dropping a gun and having a suspect literally slip away, or a fireman not being
      able to pull a hose or a banker unable to handle money due to severely sweating
      palms," Ahn said.

      UCLA researchers took detailed family histories from 49 patients with
      hyperhidrosis and found that two-thirds (65 percent) reported family recurrence
      of the disorder, compared with zero percent in the control group.

      Although the disorder appears to be inherited in a dominant fashion, the
      possible genes involved may not always cause hyperhidrosis. If one parent has
      the disorder, the study found that children have a 28 percent risk of also
      having hyperhidrosis, whereas the risk would be 50 percent if the gene produces
      the disorder directly. This indicates that other genes may also be necessary
      for hyperhidrosis to develop. If a child has the disorder, 14 percent of
      parents have it too.

      "The strong inheritance pattern and large number of people with family
      recurrence of the disorder indicate that hyperhidrosis may be caused by a
      dominant gene," Ahn said. He adds that the disorder does not appear to be
      related to sex or ethnicity.

      The next step, according to Ahn, is to test the DNA of people with
      hyperhidrosis and begin the process to of trying to identify genes that cause
      the problem.

      Ahn's interest in pursuing this study began when a former patient of his told
      him that her six-week old infant also had hyperhidrosis. Ahn then realized the
      possibility that hyperhidrosis may be inherited and not environmentally related
      to stress.

      Hyperhidrosis is caused by the sympathetic nerve, which governs the nervous
      system's "fight or flight" response. The sympathetic nerve causes blood vessel
      contraction in the hands and/or feet, leaving the extremities cold and sweaty.
      In people with hyperhidrosis, the perspiration is often excessive and

      Treatment for hyperhidrosis of the hands now includes a minimally invasive
      surgery procedure, thorascopic sympathectomy, where a surgeon will snip the
      sympathetic nerve connected to the hands. Since the sympathetic nerve is not
      involved in motor skills or sensation, says Ahn - who is a pioneer of the
      procedure - the surgery simply stops the ability of the nerve to create
      hyperhidrosis. The procedure at UCLA has been 100 percent successful.

      The study was funded by the California Vascular Research Foundation.
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