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The War Amps
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Heat & Perspiration

The skin helps regulate body temperature by producing sweat, which evaporates and cools the body. Amputees perspire more than individuals who do not have an amputation, and the reasons are varied.

Reasons Why Amputees Perspire More

One of the primary reasons is that the amputee uses more energy to carry out activities. For example, walking with an artificial leg requires more effort and the remaining limb also has to work harder. Therefore, in order to walk from point A to point B the leg amputee uses more energy. Using more energy creates more heat in the body, which the body must release as perspiration.

Another reason the amputee perspires more is due to the loss of skin surface on the body. The skin helps control body temperature as it is through the skin that perspiration is released, allowing the air to dry it and cool the body. When a person has an amputation, he/she has less skin surface and, therefore, the remaining skin surface makes up for the lost skin surface by perspiring more.

Other issues also come into play that affect the amputee's ability to deal with perspiration. The sockets of artificial limbs or crutches can actually hinder the release of perspiration, as they rest in the areas of the body that contain the large sweat glands in the armpits and the groin.

We must also remember that our residual limbs were not designed to be enclosed in the socket of an artificial limb all day long. When the stump is enclosed in the socket, air cannot reach it to evaporate perspiration from its skin's surface as it is meant to do that is why perspiration builds up inside the prosthetic sockets of most amputees.

Problems with perspiration become a bigger issue for amputees with high level amputations or with multiple amputations. Amputees with high level amputations or with two or more amputations naturally use more energy to carry out tasks and thus create more heat in the body that is then released as perspiration. Because of their amputations, they also have much less skin surface through which to dissipate the perspiration.

Practical Ideas to Control Perspiration

What can you as an amputee do to control at least some of the effects of perspiration?

  • You should clean your stump and socket regularly with mild soap and warm water (when you bath or shower is a good time). It is best to wash the stump and socket at night before going to bed. If you do it in the morning and then put on the artificial limb, the stump, even though you have dried it, is still in reality a little moist so it tends to stick to the socket which can lead to abrasions.

  • Some amputees find that wearing certain stump socks, such as those made with Dupont's CoolMax™ fabric, provide a cooling effect as they wick the perspiration away from direct contact with the skin. Stump socks should also be changed daily, and perhaps more often in hot weather or after certain high energy activities.

  • Freshening up by removing the artificial limb for just a few minutes partway through the day and cleaning the socket and stump enhance the amputee's ability to go through a day without getting abrasions from perspiration buildup.

  • There are many lotions and creams to help. Our amputee members also provide input on various lotions that they have found have helped to control perspiration. For example, one member uses antiperspirant on his stump, while another suggests Dehydral (an antiperspirant/antibacterial cream). If necessary, a physician may prescribe a drug such as Betamethafone to control perspiration.

  • For severe cases, a special drionic unit (a battery operated device that delivers electricity to the skin's surface) may be suggested.

  • Amputees who have had problems with odour in their sockets have reported great results from the spray Stay Fresh which neutralizes odours in prosthetic sockets. It is available from Special Solutions: 3572 Chartrand Cr, Mississauga, ON, L5L 4E4; Tel: (905) 828-4292.