MiraDry Article, Sweat And Tears!0January 4th, 2012Site NewsWanted to thank one of our dearest members Amherst for pointing this out to us here at VSB.I thought that I would attach this article about the Miradry system that appeared about a month ago in the New York Times. A number of persons have asked about this, and here is one report.
Sweat and Tears
By SCOTT KENEALLY
Published: December 7, 2011
FOR the better part of 10 years, I have dressed almost exclusively in black shirts. Not out of choice, but out of necessity. I have incessantly sweaty armpits, you see, and that’s the only way to conceal them.
Since the onset of the condition in my early 20s, I’ve tried everything to tackle it. From supercharged antiperspirants to jury-rigging Depends into my pits with an Ace bandage. Like I said, everything.
Botox was the only strategy that worked. And for a year, until it wore off, I enjoyed fashion freedom, wearing colored shirts with impunity. But since I cannot afford an annual Botox treatment (upward of $1,000), I’ve hoped for a longer-lasting solution.
That day might have arrived. The Food and Drug Administration has cleared a new treatment, miraDry, for sweaty pits, or axillary hyperhidrosis, as the condition is known in medical parlance. According to literature provided by Miramar Labs, the California company behind the technology, “The miraDry System non-invasively delivers precisely controlled electromagnetic energy to the region where the sweat glands reside, and destroys the sweat glands.”
And since these glands do not regenerate after treatment, the company promises “dramatic and lasting reduction of underarm sweat.” Dr. Stacy R. Smith, the dermatologist who ran the clinical trials for Miramar, said that “around 80 percent of people report that sweat is either no longer an issue, or at least tolerable, a year after their second procedure.”
While miraDry will not be widely available for a few months, some dermatology centers across the country offer the treatment. Each place sets its own price, though it generally runs around $2,000 for each of the two recommended treatments. Since $4,000 is beyond my budget for any cosmetic procedure, I was thrilled to find out that the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Northern California, in Sacramento, was offering a promotional half-price rate. I borrowed the money from my father-in-law, suggesting that it was an investment in his daughter’s happiness, and drove two hours east from my home in Healdsburg.
It wasn’t until I reviewed the consent forms and learned that the side effects could include “burning” and “infection” that doubt slunk in.
During my consultation with Becky Sprague, my miraDry-certified nurse practitioner, she warned me that one of the clinic’s six patients to date had complications. She said that the heat had injured the patient’s brachial plexus, a network of nerves, and that a month later the patient had “two fingers that are numb and tingly still.”
Mrs. Sprague, or Becky as she preferred to be called, assured me that this was extremely rare, though when I crunched the numbers it seemed as though I had a 17 percent chance of being unable to type a bad word about the experience. (Dr. Smith said that when you factor in the results of all patients treated in clinical trials and practice studies, that number falls below 1 percent.)
“What about cancer?” I asked. “My friends all seem to think that I’m going to get armpit cancer.”
Becky’s response was a little frank for my taste: “I honestly don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think it’s been around long enough to really make that determination.”
Gulp. Still, I proceeded. The next step was to shave my pits. Becky offered me a disposable razor, and I thought: Seriously? Have you seen my armpits? There’s enough hair to stuff a comforter. Luckily, I had a beard trimmer in my car.
With my underarms smooth to the touch and creepy to the eyes, Becky marked up the hair-bearing “sweat zone” with the help of a sizing template.
“You have the biggest armpits I’ve ever seen,” she marveled. Far from being a compliment, it was a warning. Whereas the average patient might receive 30 shots of the numbing agent Lidocaine under each arm, I needed 61. If this sounds unpleasant, that’s because it was. The first shot felt like a bee sting. Then came the next 121.
Once numb, it was time to begin. Becky readied the miraDry machine, which looked like an old-fashioned desktop computer on wheels, with a monitor and two cords running to a showerhead-shaped handpiece.
With the help of a map on the monitor, Becky aligned the handpiece with the marks on my skin, pulled the trigger, and … I felt nothing. I did hear what sounded like Enya emanating from the base station. I wasn’t sure if it was designed to help patients relax or to indicate when the machine was activated, but I was relieved that the procedure was painless.
Becky systematically traversed my underarm, zapping 39 different sites. Each site treatment lasted 40 seconds. The first 15 were devoted to the electromagnetic assault on my axilla, then a hydro-ceramic “cooling plate” chilled my skin for the next 25.
While Becky treated my left armpit, a registered nurse, Linda Tinsman, numbed my right one. After Becky finished, Linda took control of the device. And here’s where it became A Tale of Two Pits.
As Linda reached the midway point on my right arm, I started to feel a burning sensation. At first it was like a quick lick of flames, but as she progressed, it felt as if she were holding a blowtorch to my skin. And since I’ve never been one to confront so much as a splinter with a modicum of dignity, I was writhing in agony.
“Are you sure you numbed it?” I asked.
Linda nodded, and then Becky unexpectedly stuck a needle into my armpit.
“Did you feel that?” she asked.
Linda renumbed the area. At this point I started to question her qualifications: “So how many patients have you treated?”
“You’re the first.”
I thought she was kidding. But no.
“Seriously? You’ve never pulled that trigger before today?”
I don’t know if it was because I was Linda’s first patient, or if there was something physiologically different about that armpit, but despite added Lidocaine, it began to feel as if she were welding something in there. When my whining hit a crescendo, Becky suggested they stop. But I did not want to leave any sweat glands behind, so I summoned my machismo and muscled through.
Afterward, I was instructed to ice my underarms for a few days, which was a no-brainer, really. The following morning my pits were throbbing, with bruises and lumps so large it looked as if walnuts had been fused into my axilla. But while my pits may have been traumatized, the one thing they weren’t was wet. It worked! It worked so well, in fact, that after a hike my whole shirt except for my armpits was wet.
Two weeks later, the bruises had faded, the lumps had (mostly) receded, and my armpit hairs were slowly growing back. And despite a persistent dull pain, I was thrilled with the results and gallivanting around town in a revealing red tee.
But just as I was relishing my fashion freedom, it happened. I waved to a friend and felt it. A sweat stain on the move. I turned to my wife. She was gawking at my shirt, her face one part shock, one part “Oh, you poor thing.”
I was crushed.
I know the company recommends two treatments, but Becky said some patients are so happy after one that they do not bother with the second. Obviously I hoped to be among that group, because I’m not so sure I can suffer through another session.
So here I am: still sweaty, only with less money, and the added bonus of tender, stubbly armpits. Brilliant.
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