For Julia Dougherty, taking a walk in the hot sun could bring uncomfortable consequences, "I noticed about five years ago, the amount of sweat I produced changed, it was more. And it had an odor all of a sudden."
The profuse sweating, known as hyperhidrosis, became so uncomfortable that Dougherty decided to undergo a recently approved treatment. The system, called miraDry, promises to get rid of excessive perspiration permanently.
"miraDry is exciting because it's a non-invasive way to destroy the sweat glands," Dermatologist Dr. Kathleen Welsh said. "And these are the sweat glands responsible for underarm sweating."
The San Francisco dermatologist says the technique is safe because there are enough sweat glands in other parts of the body to compensate.
After first marking out a grid on the underarm area, a technician uses a handset to deliver heat, "The Mira Dry procedure use microwave energy to focus energy at the level of the skin where the sweat glands reside and it permanently destroys them," Welsh said.
While the microwave component in the handset delivers the energy to a calibrated depth, a parallel system produces a cooling effect closer to the skin's surface preventing damage to surrounding tissue.
The device is an alternative surgical treatments, including the vaser which uses a probe to destroy the sweat glands underneath the skin, and botox injections which are used to temporarily disable sweat glands.
All of the procedures can have side effects. The most common are pain and swelling in the treatment area, which can last for several days, or in some cases several weeks.
The energy used in the miraDry system is controlled by software in the base station, and a display on the handset helps guide the technician through the procedure.
In about an hour, Dougherty is finished and ready to go home. Hopefully to a new life, free from severe perspiration, "It's just more of a comfort issue really," Dougherty said. "Somewhat physical, somewhat emotional."
The miraDry treatment costs roughly $5,000, and is not covered by insurance.
Written and produced by Tim Didion