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Don’t sweat it, just learn to live with it

From an early age Martin Kimamo suffered from a silent handicap most people attribute to fear. It’s only after he learnt the real cause of the disease that he reclaimed his life

Harriet James @harriet86jim

Martin Kimamo’s childhood was characterised by sweaty hands. He was a neat freak and always desired to wear sandals, hiding his hands each time his father took a family photo.

As he recalls, it was not until he enrolled in primary school that he noticed that he was the only pupil with sweaty hands and later on sweaty armpits Monday to Monday, regardless of whether it was hot or cold. His parents didn’t know what conditions he suffered from and inferred that the sweating was caused by fear.

“At school I would mess up my exercise books with sweat paddles and it got worse when I reached Class Four when we started using ink. I would be flogged by my teachers and my classmates would bully me,” says Martin, 31.

Martin suffers from hyperhidrosis, a condition characterised by abnormally increased sweating that is more than the required amount to regulate body temperature. Currently, five per cent of the global population struggles with excessive sweating due to lack of knowledge.

While primary hyperhidrosis is brought about by unknown causes, secondary hyperhidrosis is as a result of health conditions such as obesity, gout or even diabetes. Recent research has shown that certain genes play a role in hyperhidrosis, making it look more likely that it could be inherited.

Excessive sweating is embarrassing, stains clothes, ruins romance and complicates business and social interactions. Severe cases can have serious practical consequences as well, making it hard for people who suffer from it to hold a pen, grip a car steering wheel, or shake hands.

These are some of the issues Martin faced. To cope with the situation, he was forced to buy several handkerchiefs just to prevent the excessive sweat from messing the ink. In high school, romantic gestures turned into rejection, insults and being teased because of his condition.

Later in life, when he landed his first job as a content producer, he opted to work in the night shift, just to be all by himself for fear of stigma.

“Teambuilding activities and any physical contact would set me off the edge. Only three of my colleagues knew about it and they accepted me with the condition,” he says.

Although primarily a physical burden, hyperhidrosis can deteriorate quality of life from a psychological, emotional, and social perspective. According to Dr Hosea Waweru, a dermatologist, hyperhidrosis is sometimes referred to as ‘the silent handicap and while there are no guidelines to determine what ‘normal’ sweating is, there are several ways where one can detect the ailment.

“If you feel that your sweating has started to interfere with your everyday daily life, let’s say you avoid physical contact because you feel self-conscious about your sweating or you fear taking part in activities or you’ve just discovered that sweating interferes with your job then it’s most likely you have the condition and should seek help,” he advises.

Martin found his breakthrough in 2007 while he was in Nakuru. As he recalls, he walked in from work to find his younger sister watching a Tyra Banks show where he saw a young woman narrate a story that was similar to what he was going through. That was when he realised that he was suffering from hyperhidrosis.

As a result, Martin began extensive research on the condition and even moved to Nairobi in the year 2009 to look for a doctor who had an understanding of the disease. “I have been misdiagnosed severally and given typhoid injections all the time until I met a dermatologist last year who showed me how to manage the excessive sweating,” he says.

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