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Iontophoresis treatment for hands, feet and axillae

The aim of this page is to provide information about hand and foot photochemotherapy or ’PUVA’. Please ask a member of staff if you have any questions.

What is iontophoresis?

Iontophoresis is a safe and effective method of reducing excessive sweating of the hands, feet and axillae in those who suffer from hyperhidrosis.

It is not a permanent solution and further treatments will be needed at a later stage, but with maintenance therapy, you should be able to reduce you sweating considerably with either treatments within this service in exceptional circumstances or with your own machine at home that will need to be purchased by yourself (ask staff for details).

Treatment involves:

  • Immersing the hands and/or feet in shallow trays of water for around
    20-30 minutes
  • Wet sponges are placed into the axillae if this area is being treated.

The baths or pads are attached to the Iontophoresis machine with electrical leads which pass a small electric current through the areas that are affected. You should only feel a mild tingling or ‘pins and needles’ during treatment and it should not be painful.

Before treatment

You will be asked to remove your jewellery and any body piercings that you may have. You will also be asked if you have a cardiac pacemaker (or similar device), have metal orthopaedic implants or are pregnant as these are contraindicated for this treatment.

The electric current does not pass above the neck so earrings, dental braces and fillings do not cause a problem.

Petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) will be applied to any small cuts on the areas to be treated to prevent stinging during treatment.

Axillae will need to be shaved to ensure good contact with the skin.

During treatment

If hands and/or feet are being treated you will be asked to immerse the affected areas in shallow trays of tap water whilst sitting at a table with the hand trays on the table and feet trays on the floor.

Once the current is turned on you should not remove your hands or feet from the trays or you might experience a mild electric shock (similar to static electric shocks).

After 10-15 minutes the current will reduced and you will be able to rest for a couple of minutes. You will then immerse the areas being treated again in the water trays and the current will be restarted with the opposite polarity (the electric current will run in the opposite direction).

If the axillae are being treated wet sponge pads will be placed into each axillae while you are resting on a couch. You will need to remove your top but a bra can be left in place.

The procedure for treating the axillae is the same as described for hands and feet. Petroleum jelly will be reapplied to any small cuts during the break for the polarity change. You may wish to bring a towel with you for axillae treatments as you may get wet during treatment.

After treatment

If you get any soreness or irritation during treatment an emollient or Hydrocortisone cream may be applied immediately after treatment.

Treatment schedule

You will need to be able to commit to seven appointments over a four week course of treatment on specified days. The days of treatment are fixed but the appointment times may be flexible.

Week 1: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
Week 2: Monday and Thursday
Week 3: Tuesday
Week 4: Tuesday
You will need to be able to attend all days as if any are missed the course of treatment will need to be cancelled.

Females with IUD: no immediate side effects have been reported and there is no risk to women’s health. The effectiveness of the IUD cannot be guaranteed with or without iontophoresis. If a copper coil is in place iontophoresis of the feet is not recommended.


If the treatment is successful you will probably need maintenance treatments to continue the improvements long term. A machine will need to be purchased by yourself to continue this treatment at home. The treatment nurses will be able to give you a declaration form which will enable you to purchase this machine at zero VAT from STD Pharmaceutical Products Ltd.