Iontophoresis Questions

What is iontophoresis?
Tap water iontophoresis uses a special machine to pass a low voltage electrical current through the skin which is immersed in water to block the sweat glands.
Are iontophoresis machines safe?
Yes, all devices sold in the UK must have been submitted for checking and awarded a CE mark.

It is very important that the instructions are followed carefully and current is not broken when in use by removing the hands or feet suddenly.

How effective is iontophoresis?
Tap water iontophoresis works for the majority (70%) of people for treating the hands and/or feet but does not work for everyone.

For the treatment of armpit sweating it can work for up to 65% of people.

How do I know if iontophoresis will work for me before I buy a machine?
The only way to test if something works for you is to try it. Many people will try iontophoresis at a hospital dermatology department before making a decision. If they feel it helps, that is the point at which purchasing machine becomes a viable option.
Is there any difference between mains and battery powered machines?
The power output of battery and mains powered devices is similar. A very low current (up to 20 milliamps) is produced which can readily be supplied by batteries as well as mains powered devices.
Will I see an improvement after the first session of treatment?
It is very unlikely that you will notice any change after the first treatment and most patients do not notice any change in sweating until after the fourth treatment session.
What is the difference between the direct current (DC) and the pulsed current?
A direct current is a continuous current whereas a pulsed current is the same current but pulsed at a high frequency to reduce the intensity. We recommend pulsed current for those with sensitive skin, treating the underarms and for the treatment of children.
How many treatment sessions will I need?
You should follow the instructions with your machine but the usual treatment schedule is to have seven sessions of treatment on days 1, 2, 4, 7 , 10, 15 and 22.

The treatment takes 20 minutes for the hands and 30 minutes for the feet.

That should bring the sweating under control. Maintenance treatments are then required as soon as you start to feel the sweating return which can be anything from a few days to a few weeks.

I missed or was unable to do my maintenance treatment, what should I do?
If too long is left between maintenance treatments then sweating will return. We recommend you wait about a week before commencing on the original seven session treatment schedule you did at the start.
What temperature should the water be?
Warm water is best but not too hot that it burns.
What does the treatment feel like?
For the treatment of hands and feet – You should feel a ‘pins and needles’ type sensation, but this should not be uncomfortable. You should increase the current slowly to a tolerable level but this must not exceed 20mA.

For the treatment of the axillae – Some people report no feeling at all but this does not mean you should increase the current to more than the recommended level. The sponge pockets should be kept as wet as possible for the treatment. We recommend no more than 5mA initially and never exceed 10mA when treating the axillae because the skin is more sensitive. Mild skin redness has been reported. This treatment is not recommended in patients under the age of sixteen, without prior medical consultation.

When I treat myself I feel virtually nothing, and yet the display shows that the current is present. Is this normal?
The sensation of the passage of current varies greatly from one person to another. Some people feel strong, even unpleasant, sensations at low levels of current while others feel practically nothing. The level of the current will differ from person to person.
What is a circuit and how do I create one?
A circuit is a continuous loop through which the current can travel. A circuit is created when your hands and/or feet are placed in the water in the baths or/when the wet axillae pads are in place and all the necessary leads are connected. A circuit will need to be completed before the current can flow.
How much water should I put in the trays?
Please refer to your instruction manual for the water volume for your machine. The water conducts the current, putting in too much water can be counter-productive. Put in just enough water to cover the skin on the palms of your hands (where you have ridges/finger prints) and the soles of your feet. If using the axillae pads, the wetter these are the better.
When I do a treatment, my skin goes red above the water level.
This redness is due to the vasodilation (opening up) of the skin blood vessels and is quite common. If it becomes troublesome we recommend putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on the wrist line or just on/above the water level on the feet. If during treatment you feel a sharp occasional pain at a precise point on the palm of your hand or the sole of your foot you may have a small cut in the skin. Stop the treatment by bringing the current gently back to zero and check to see whether you have any cuts in the skin which is immersed in the water, as this may cause a mild electrical burn. If you find a cut, dry the area thoroughly and apply a small amount of Vaseline over the cut to protect it from the current. If the red patches are sore or inflamed after treatment we recommend you apply a suitable emollient cream or seek advice from your pharmacist or GP for an appropriate product.
Will underarm hair effect the treatment of the underarms (axillae)?
The sponges need to have a good contact with the skin surface, if you feel that there is a need for hair removal to achieve this then we recommend shaving or trimming at least 3-4 days prior to treatment.
How long should be left after shaving or waxing your armpits before starting treatment?
The recommendation is to leave treatment for 3-4 days after shaving or waxing.
Can children be treated with Iontophoresis?
Please seek medical advice before commencing treatment on children. The basic treatment is the same as for adults, but because the skin is thinner we suggest starting with pulsed current. If the child is able to tolerate a higher level of pulsed current we suggest that he/she uses direct current for the hands and feet, as the treatment may be more successful. Children should not go above 15mA with direct current.
The treatment has been unsuccessful after the initial full treatment protocol, are there any other alternatives?
The mineral content of your tap water may affect the success rate of the treatment. The mineral content of the water is important for the treatment to work, we have seen that by increasing the mineral content in areas of very soft water users get better results. Please contact us for alternatives to tap water..
I have a metal implant or plate, is this a contra-indication?
If the metal implant is not in the path of the current or in the immediate treatment area then there is no problem having iontophoresis treatment. For example, if the implant was in your leg and you were treating your hands, the current is not going to pass through your legs, so there is no problem. You would not however be able to treat your feet, as this would be a contra-indication. We do advise removing all jewellery around the areas of treatment. If in any doubt then contact us.
If I buy my own machine do I have to pay VAT?
If you are buying a machine to treat hyperhidrosis for your own use then you can make a declaration to exempt you from paying the VAT.
How much does a machine cost?
For the latest prices, please visit the SweatHelp shop.
I can't afford to buy a machine, is there anywhere I can get help?
There are very many local charities that exist to help people who live in that community so it is worth searching the web or asking at your local library. The Turn2Us website has a good search facility of local charities.