Update: The Hidrex device is now FDA approved for sale in the US. Scroll all the way down to see the link to the US distributor's website.
In May 2009, I received a Hidrex iontophoresis machine from Germany to test for my feet sweating, which had exacerbated significantly since 1998 when I had endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy to successfully cure my excessive hand sweating. The manufacturer of the machine, HIDREX GmbH, guarantees that 98 percent of people who use its iontophoresis machine to treat palmar and/or feet sweating experience a successful outcome. I was extremely skeptical with this claim, especially since I saw no results from using the very basic Drionic iontophoresis machine for one month in 2004. I had also tried Dehydral, Drysol and Klima products briefly on my feet, but saw no results. Deodorant type foot powders and sweat sucking insoles were also entirely ineffective for me. One often cited study concluded a success rate of 83 percent for treatment of hyperhidrosis with iontophoresis, which already seemed too high to me based on reading forum messages from people who have tried this treatment method and not seen any success. So this 98 percent success rate claim by Hidrex seemed like an obvious exaggeration.
Since the manufacturer was testing the US market and I was the first person in the US to receive the Hidrex machine, I had to purchase a travel adapter to enable the machine's round pin plug to fit into a US square pin socket. The machine works with the typical US voltage of 110-120 volts despite being made in Germany. I got the (at the time) latest Hidrex PS 500 machine with steel plates instead of aluminium ones, since steel lasts longer than aluminium and is more resistant to corrosion. I was a bit nervous about potentially electrocuting myself once my feet were in the trays (since this machine is powered via the wall outlet and not via a standalone battery), but decided to go ahead and try it out after probably a day of hesitation!Using Hidrex to treat feet sweating:
It took me a while to figure out how to change the default hand sweating setting to feet sweating, which has a higher 30 voltage treatment parameter. The instruction manual seemed to have an error that confused me since it says "User" key instead of "Memo" key in several places. I purchased a multimeter to verify that the voltage reading on the display is precise by measuring the voltage at the connecting leads of the machine. The reading from the multimeter agreed with the reading displayed on the Hidrex console. Thereafter, I experimented with the depth and temperature of the water during the first few treatments to find an ideal level of each for me. It is generally recommended to have as low a depth as possible when treating your hands or feet with iontophoresis.
After three weeks of daily 15 minute treatments, I finally noticed good results, and a few days after that, I could continuously wear shoes or sandals without wearing socks and still be comfortable for the first time since I was in my early teens! The feet sweating had completely ceased. I can now sleep comfortably every day without having to wash and dry my feet before going to bed, and I can now play sports without coming home with white bumps on the sides of my toe where the sweat and shoe and sock cause friction. Since the initial success, I have been treating myself 2-3 times a week, using warm water at a fairly shallow depth level that seems to give best results. I will keep my fingers crossed that this is not a temporary success and will update this page infrequently.
UPDATE July 30th 2009: Still having excellent results. Moreover, I have only been treating my feet once a week for the past month.
UPDATE August 2nd 2009: Tried going 8 days without treatment, but today my feet started sweating again (around 60 percent as bad as they used to before this success). Will try never going more than 7 days in a row without treatment from now on.
UPDATE October 17th 2009: So much for the above statement. I went on a trip to England for two weeks at the end of August, and did not take the machine with me. My feet started sweating heavily in the second week in England and since then I have had my feet sweat a lot on some days even though I have stuck to the twice a week treatment schedule in the US. It seems like I might have to treat the feet daily for two weeks in a row again prior to getting back on the twice a week schedule.
UPDATE November 8th 2009: I had to go to England again, and this time I took the machine with me. US Customs opened my checked-in luggage because of the machine, and left a thank you note. Still preferable to the attention I received when taking Drionic with me in my carry-on and causing airport staff a scare.
The Hidrex machine did not work well for me in England, and it could be because the water is different (soft and not hard) in London. It seems like water type and mineral content make a huge difference in treatment success. Some internet posters have recommended using certain types of bottled mineral water brands in place of tap water, and one poster even had great results using rain water. In future, I will try these variations out and make a page about it on this site. Hard water seems to be better than soft water if you want a successful outcome.
UPDATE late November 2009: Several months ago, I got a prescription for Robinul Forte. After coming back from London I started taking Robinul Forte before switching to Idromed (see next paragraph).
UPDATE February 2010: At the beginning of February 2010, I stared using the Idromed iontophoresis device that was sent to me from Germany to test. In the first month of usage, I have seen great results.
The Hidrex machine is clearly superior to the much less costlier Drionic and/or other iontophoresis machines in the following ways:
The main disadvantages of Hidrex are that the machine's cost is high (around $900) and the manual says it should be replaced or checked every four years (although this just be a safety precaution for doctors and clinics that offer the machine). The Hidrex console, which has all the controls and the display screen on it, seems light and can probably be damaged easily if dropped. Drionic is much sturdier because it comes with no console. The English instruction manual that comes with Hidrex is a bit disorganized, but with some time you can figure out what to do. The manufacturer does have a detailed manual online in German. One potential concern that I first read about in 2010 due to a forum post is an issue with all iontophoresis machines and not just Hidrex. This issue pertains to the long-term potential health effects of steel or aluminium plates. I have talked with people who have been using iontophoresis machines for 5 or more years, and they do not have any such problems. Nevertheless, you may want to look to see if you can find more expensive electrodes that are longer-lasting like steel, but that do not inject potentially dangerous ions into your palms or feet. Most likely, this issue is overblown, and it would make me and many others feel better if someone who has been undergoing iontophoresis therapy for decades with both steel and aluminium electrodes were to e-mail me.
To purchase the Hidrex machine, click on the banner below that takes you to the North America and South America distributor's website:
If you can't afford this machine or do not trust that iontophoresis works, you could try making the much cheaper homemade iontophoresis unit first. However, the homemade unit has less chances of working than Hidrex, can cause burns (read all the comments underneath that video) and requires reverse polarity related mid-treatment changes. Moreover, the homemade machine will require battery replacement. On the forums on this site you can read some posts from users who have constructed their own iontophoresis machines. Here is a simpler video of a very basic homemade iontophoresis device.