What is Iontophoresis?
Iontophoresis is not a new procedure and has in fact been in medical use since the early 1900s. It is a method of transferring charged particles through the skin using a small electrical charge. Positive chambers (the anode) repel positive ions into the skin and negative chambers (the cathode) will repel negative ions into the skin. The ions are driven into the skin via the less resistant pores, sweat glands and hair follicles. The type of ions delivered will depend on the solution and can range from tap water to prescription based medicines.
Iontophoresis for Excessive Sweating
Iontophoresis is an effective, drug free treatment for excessive sweating and can be used for those that are unable to control their sweat levels with maximum strength antiperspirants. It can be used for various parts of the body such as the underarms, face, neck and torso but is particularly effective for hands and feet.
A typical treatment involves immersion of hands or feet into tap water filled trays, each connected with electrodes, to form a complete circuit. A small amount of electricity is then passed through the water and its frequency is gradually increased until a mild tingling sensation is felt by the patient. The current flows into the skin and reduces secretion at the sweat glands. The process is continued for 20 minutes to half an hour. Initially several sessions are required, each with higher currents, in order for results to be noticeable. After this, maintenance sessions are completed. If other areas of the body need to be treated the electrodes are attached to wet sponges and placed on the treatment areas.
Prior to treatment it is important to remove all jewellery and any skin irritations or cuts should be protected with the use of Vaseline. Iontophoresis is a completely safe and hassle free procedure with minimal to no serious side effects. The skin may become dry and irritated, both of which can be alleviated with the use of moisturiser.
- Metal implants in the current path (hip replacement when treating feet)
- Heart disease
- Electrical sensitivity
In some cases iontophoresis may be ineffective due to a lack of minerals and electrolytes in the tap water. It is possible to add baking soda to the water to improve the procedure. For some individuals a prescription medication, such as an anticholinergic, may be added to the water to improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
Iontophoresis Home Device
Due to the ease and efficacy of iontophoresis, patients can purchase home iontophoresis machines. Although these can be expensive, they provide convenience and many years of service. The devices are usually battery operated and current generators, maintaining a constant current. Battery operated devices have the advantage of being easily portable and not restricted to a power supply.