Don't Sweat Problem Perspiration; Inventor Robert Tapper Has a Gizmo That Will Zap You Dry

updated 08/26/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/26/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

A healthy glow is one thing, but for an estimated 5 percent of all Americans, sweaty armpits, hands and feet are a sticky problem. These hapless people suffer from hyperhidrosis, a chronic condition of excessive sweating that even the strongest antiperspirants can't control. No practical help existed until Los Angeles inventor Robert Tapper, 59, hit on a home-use remedy. He created the Drionic, which passes a low-voltage electric current through the sweat glands, reducing their output to normal levels for as long as six weeks.

In addition to rescuing the man or woman who ruins expensive clothes and constantly feels like a wet blanket, the device has helped some sufferers improve their job performance. "The letters we get from users are very gratifying," says Tapper. Gina Camarena, a typist at a California bank, says, "My hands were so sweaty they would slip right off the keyboard. The Drionic is the only thing I've used that's helped."

At a cost of about $100, Drionic models for hands, feet and underarms are available now through doctors. A battery-powered electric plate is housed in a blue plastic box, which is covered by wool pads to prevent skin damage. The user soaks the pads in tap water, places them on the plate, then applies the wet surface to the problem area for 20-minute treatments. This must be repeated for four to 10 days. The low current produces only a vague tingling sensation even at full power. In tests conducted at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the machine was effective for 85 percent of users. "The fact that it can be used at home is a real breakthrough," says Dr. Mervyn Elgart, who as professor and chairman of dermatology conducted the tests. The FDA approved the device last October.

Tapper, who also invented a home electrolysis machine called Perma Tweez, says makers of antiperspirants needn't worry about competition from the Drionic device. "The heavy sweater is our area of interest, and such a person needs more than antiperspirants," he says. "There is room on this earth for both of us." In other words, no sweat.

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