Story by Brain Davidson
Hey, No Sweat - Rexburg, Idaho Man Turns To Surgery
As Treatment for Excessive Sweating
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
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
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, www.etsus.com.
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
their heads. They're told they're too anxious, and not to worry
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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 www.etsus.com.
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you think you suffer from hyperhidrosis, call (877) VERYDRY or
check the website at www.etsus.com