Bromhidrosis - Bad Underarm Odor

Bad body odor is called by doctors of bromhidrosis. Bromhidrosis is a relatively common phenomenon in men after puberty. Its origin is usually the underarm sweat and is related to a specific type of sweat gland (sweat-producing gland).


How occurs armpit odor

The bad smell of our body, especially the armpits, originates in sweat. But if we sweat all over the body, why does the underarm sweat show more odor than the rest of the body? Well, let's explain this mechanism calmly.

Our sweat is a naturally odorless liquid, produced by the sweat glands located on the skin. There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine.

The eccrine glands are the most common and are distributed throughout the surface of the skin. The sweat produced by these glands is composed of 99% water and 1% mineral salts, such as sodium chloride (salt) and urea.

The main function of the eccrine glands is to control the temperature of our body, so we perspire every time it is very hot or when we do exercises. The sweat of the eccrine glands serves to cool our body, helping it to maintain between 36ºC and 37ºC.

The apocrine glands, in turn, are only present in some parts of the body, such as the armpits, groin, region around the nipples and the anus. The apocrine glands arise between 8 and 14 years of age and produce a completely different type of sweat, more oily, that does not evaporate and has no function of controlling body temperature.

Both the eccrine and apocrine glands produce sweat initially without odor. However, due to the action of bacteria present on the skin, such as the Corynebacterium species, the fats present in the sweat of the apocrine glands are digested and transformed into volatile acids, which have a strong and unpleasant odor.

Factors that favor the appearance of bad body odor

Everyone has apocrine glands and has some degree of odor in the armpits and in the groin. Some people, however, have a bad body odor above the average, difficult to control. Post-pubertal men and young people are the group with the highest incidence of bromhidrosis.

Studies show that people with bad body scents are those with a higher number of apocrine glands. In these individuals, the glands are also usually larger than in people who do not have relevant bad smell in the armpits.

In addition to the genetic factors that determine the characteristics of the apocrine glands, there are also other conditions that may contribute to the body's bad smell:

How to treat underarm smell

There are several therapeutic modalities available for the treatment of body odor. The treatment chosen should consider the cause of bad odor and the degree of impairment in the patient's quality of life.

In general, the treatment targets two targets: controlling the amount of sweat and reducing the number of bacteria in the skin.

Here are a few simple options to relieve underarm odor:
  • Wash underarms at least twice a day with antibacterial soap
  • Use antiperspirant deodorant to reduce underarm sweating
  • Do not repeat clothes, because dry sweat is a frequent cause of bad odor
  • Scrape the armpit hairs to remove bacteria and dry sweat that are adhered to them
  • Attention to diet
  • Treat skin problems that may be perpetuating the scent, such as mycosis
  • Bathing daily

If the patient has hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), treatment of this condition is necessary to control the bad smell. Options include iontophoresis, use of botulinum toxin and even surgery to remove the sweat glands.

Other treatment options for underarm odor include:
  • Definitive removal of armpit hairs
  • Use of topical antibiotics in the armpits, such as clindamycin or erythromycin
  • Liposuction for removal of the apocrine glands from the axilla
  • Laser treatment of the apocrine glands

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