What is iontophoresis?
Iontophoresis facial is a safe, effective and inexpensive procedure. In this an electrical current is passed through skin soaked in tap water, normal saline (0.9%), or solution containing an anti-cholinergic medication. This allows ionized (charged) particles to cross the normal skin barrier. It reduces sweating and enhances delivery of drugs and macro molecules into and through the skin.
What is iontophoresis used for?
The main use of iontophoresis is to treat focal areas of excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), particularly on the palms or soles. Tap-water iontophoresis is less effective in the axilla.
Some studies suggested that up to 80–85% of patients with palmar hyperhidrosis notice a subjective improvement in their symptoms within 2–4 weeks. One study of tap-water iontophoresis showed 33% improvement on the soles and 37.5% in the axillae after 14 days. This increased to 78%, and 75% respectively over 20 days.
Iontophoresis has also been successfully used to deliver drugs to the skin in order to:
- Reduce sweating further using an anti-cholinergic agent such as botulinum toxin A.
- Anaesthetise an area of skin with lignocaine.
- Treat fungal infection of the nail plate.
- Eradicate infection due to resistant micro-organisms using silver ions.
- Treat bursitis or tendonitis with anti-inflammatory drugs.
How does iontophoresis work in hyperhidrosis?
The mechanism of action of iontophoresis in reducing sweating is not completely understood. Sweat forms in response to an electrical gradient produced by sympathetic nerve activity on the cells of the sweat gland. There are several theories as to how a change in the electrical gradient reduces sweat production.
- Ions produced by iontophoresis may physically block the sweat ducts in the stratum corneum.
- The external electrical current may disrupt normal sympathetic nerve transmission.
- The pH drops in the sweat gland due to an accumulation of hydrogen ions.
Procedure/what to expect
Battery-powered Direct Current (DC) and mains-powered Alternating Current (AC) devices are available. Individual machines vary, and the instructions provided by the manufacturer should be followed carefully.
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