Why Do I Sweat So Much? 17 Possible Causes Of Excessive Sweating

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Possible Causes Of Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating may be the result of a problem with your sympathetic nervous system. Your genes may play a part in this too. It can also be caused by underlying conditions such as anxiety, low blood sugar, hyperthyroidism, cancer, Parkinson's disease, acromegaly, pheochromocytoma, carcinoid syndrome, and heart attacks. An injury to your spinal cord can cause excessive sweating and so can certain medications and drug or alcohol withdrawal. Obesity, pregnancy, and menopause are other triggers.

It’s normal for all of us to sweat more under certain circumstances – say, when the weather is hot or when we are exercising, under emotional stress, or eating spicy foods. While most of us go about our day without giving sweating a second thought, it can become a source of mortification for people who sweat excessively, a condition that’s medically known as hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis may sweat to the point of dripping – as if the sweat glands are constantly active.

If the thought of clammy hands or foggy underarms is keeping you up at night or forcing you to avoid social contact, it’s time to delve deeper and find what could be causing it. Hyperhidrosis can take on two forms. When the excessive sweating is generalized, occurring all over the body, and triggered by an underlying condition, it is known as secondary hyperhidrosis. It can be caused by:1

1. Obesity

A body mass index between 30 and 40 would indicate that you’re obese.2 And all those extra pounds can cause physical symptoms like increased sweating, breathlessness, snoring, and joint and back pain. It might also make you feel tired and hit your confidence levels.3

2. Menopause

Menopause can bring on hot flashes for many women. You may suddenly feel hot in your upper body or all over. You then get red blotches on your back, chest, and arms, followed by heavy sweats and cold shivers. Hot flashes can last anywhere between 30 seconds and 10 minutes and their frequency can vary from woman to woman.4

3. Pregnancy

We all know that your hormones can run amok during pregnancy and trigger symptoms like tender breasts and nausea. These hormonal changes can also make your sweat glands more active. This can mean increased sweating. Your vaginal and cervical secretions may also increase during this time.5

4. Anxiety

People who have anxiety disorders experience dread and fear when faced with certain situations or objects. Physical reactions like sweating and rapid heartbeats are common when confronted with something that triggers their anxiety.6 For instance, those with social anxiety disorder may experience increased sweating as well as other symptoms like nausea, trembling, or blushing when they’re around people while those with panic disorder may experience sweating, shortness of breath, trembling, a pounding heart etc. when they have a panic attack.7

5. Low Blood Sugar

Increased sweating and other symptoms like tiredness, weakness, headache, shaking, nervousness, irritability, and hunger may be signs that your blood sugar is dangerously low. This condition is often associated with taking diabetic medication that increases insulin levels. Skipping meals or eating very little can also be triggers. If you have symptoms of low blood sugar, you need to test your blood sugar right away. If it is below 70 mg/dL, immediately eat something high in sugar.8

6. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition characterized by an overactive thyroid gland. This condition can cause a wide range of symptoms including sweating. Some of the other symptoms caused by hyperthyroidism include a swelling in the neck, heart palpitations, trembling, warm skin, red palms, hair loss, loose nails, hives, diarrhea, irritability, nervousness, and anxiety.9

7. Being Drunk Or Withdrawal From Drugs Or Alcohol

Being high or drunk can also cause increased sweating. You may also experience increased sweating as well as other symptoms like anxiety, nausea, and dilated pupils when you’re going through withdrawal. Do keep in mind that withdrawing from addictive substances on your own can be difficult and even dangerous. Seek help – a healthcare professional will be able to provide you with the right support.10 11

8. Certain Medications

Many medications used to treat conditions like depression and high blood pressure, as well as psychiatric drugs and even aspirin, can cause increased sweating.12 Check with your doctor to find out if any medication that you’re on can cause this side effect. Your doctor may be able to suggest alternative medications if this is the case.

9. Certain Infections

Many infections are associated with excessive sweating. Some examples include HIV, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, tuberculosis, and abscesses.13

Endocarditis is an uncommon infection which afflicts the inner lining of your heart. It can potentially be fatal and is typically caused by bacteria traveling to your heart through the bloodstream. Initial symptoms of this condition can include high temperature, muscle and joint pain, chills, and headache. Endocarditis is more common in people with artificial heart valves, congenital heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, damaged heart valves and those who inject drugs.14

Osteomyelitis is the medical term for a bone infection. It is typically caused by bacteria and usually affects your leg bones though other bones like those in your arms or back may also be affected. Symptoms of this condition may also include a high temperature, bone pain, and redness, swelling, and warmth in the area.15

An abscess is a collection of pus due to infection. Invading bacteria are mostly responsible for these. An abscess on your skin is easily identified, it appears as pus-filled swelling or lump underneath your skin’s surface. It’s a little tougher to identify one inside your body but, aside from intense sweating, you may experience signs such as pain in the affected part, a general feeling of being unwell, and high temperature. Small skin abscesses may go away on their own while larger abscesses may need to be drained. You may also be prescribed antibiotics to get rid of the infection. 16

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that usually affects your lungs though other body parts like your kidneys, lymph nodes, joints, and bones can be affected too. It spreads through the air when you’re exposed to the coughing or sneezing of someone with untreated tuberculosis. Your doctor will prescribe a course of medication for this disease which will last for 6 months or more.17

HIV attacks your immune system and makes it harder for your body to defend itself against infections. Screening for HIV is the only way to know if you have this condition. However, people with who are infected may experience symptoms like night sweats, weight loss, tiredness, prolonged fever, persistent diarrhea, skin rashes, and poor resistance to infections.18

Do see a doctor if you experience night sweats as they can sometimes be a sign of a serious condition like cancer or dangerous infections such as endocarditis or tuberculosis.19

10. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is an illness where parts of your brain get progressively damaged over time. It occurs because your brain doesn’t make enough dopamine. Your genes as well as environmental factors like exposure to certain chemicals play a role in its development. The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are involuntary tremors, inflexible and stiff muscles, and slow movement. Some people may also experience symptoms like increased sweating, loss of sense of smell, and memory problems.20 21

11. Acromegaly

Acromegaly is a disorder characterized excessive amounts of growth hormone in the body. Usually a benign tumor of the pituitary gland is responsible for the release of excessive growth hormone. It can cause symptoms like sweating, body odor, muscle weakness, blood in your stool, headache, heart enlargement, large bones in the face, teeth that are widely spaced, large feet, large hands, skin tags etc. Surgery is usually recommended to remove the tumor though radiotherapy or medication may also be used for treatment. Without treatment, this condition can cause health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.22

12. Pheochromocytoma

Pheochromocytoma is an uncommon tumor that develops in your adrenal glands. They’re usually benign but they do often result in the adrenal gland releasing excessive amounts of hormones. This may cause high blood pressure and symptoms such as sweating, headaches, a pounding heart, shakiness, and being pale. Surgery is typically undertaken to deal with this condition though chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy may also be used.23

13. Tumors And Cancer

Night sweats and hot flashes can affect the quality of life in many people suffering from cancer. Both the tumor itself as well as cancer treatment may cause excessive sweating. For instance, people who have treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer may experience excessive sweating while some people who have Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that affects your white blood cells, may experience night sweats as a symptom.24

14. Carcinoid Syndrome

Carcinoid syndrome is a collection of symptoms which afflicts some people when a carcinoid tumor, mostly one which has expanded to the liver, releases hormones like serotonin. A carcinoid tumor is an uncommon cancer that afflicts the neuroendocrine system which produces hormones. They are mostly observed in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Other than sweating, you may experience symptoms like flushing, trouble breathing, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and heart problems when you have carcinoid syndrome. These symptoms may appear suddenly and, sometimes, they’re triggered by physical exertion or by having things like red wine, chocolate, or blue cheese.25 26

15. Spinal Cord Injury

Your spinal cord contains nerves which convey messages from your brain to your body and vice versa. Injuries to your spinal cord, especially injuries at the level of your upper chest can cause problems with your blood pressure, abnormal sweating, and difficulty maintaining normal body temperature.27

16. Heart Attack

Excessive sweating or cold sweats is one of the more well-known symptoms of a heart attack. Other common symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pains, pain down your left arm, shoulder pain, jaw stiffness, and a pounding heart. Women have been found to experience symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and indigestion too.28

17. Sympathetic Nervous System Problems: Primary Hyperhidrosis

The conditions you just read about can trigger excessive sweating. But in some cases, an underlying cause may not be apparent and it may not be clear why you sweat. This is known as primary hyperhidrosis and involves sweating in focal areas like armpits, hands, face, and feet.

Experts suggest that primary hyperhidrosis could be caused by a flaw in your sympathetic nervous system. This system controls body functions that don’t need conscious thought, like the passage of food from your stomach to your small intestine or the movement of urine from your kidneys to your bladder. It also works as a thermostat. When your body gets too hot, it sends a signal to your sweat glands to produce sweat to cool it down. And a particular kind of sweat gland, called eccrine glands, seems to be implicated in primary hyperhidrosis. In this condition, your brain signals your eccrine glands even when your body doesn’t need to be cooled down. And since there are more eccrine glands on the hands, armpits, face, and feet, you may find that these parts typically sweat excessively. Primary hyperhidrosis has been found to run in families and so your genetic makeup may also play a part here.29

References   [ + ]

1.Hyperhidrosis. National Institutes of Health.
2.Obesity. HealthDirect Australia.
3.Obesity symptoms. HealthDirect Australia.
4.What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause?. National Institutes of Health.
5.Ricci, Susan Scott, and Terri Kyle. Maternity and pediatric nursing. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009.
6.Anxiety Disorders. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
7.Anxiety Disorders. National Institutes of Health.
8.Low blood sugar symptoms. National Institutes of Health.
9.Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). National Health Service.
10.Opiate and opioid withdrawal. National Institutes of Health.
11.Alcohol withdrawal. National Institutes of Health.
12, 13.Night sweats. National Health Service.
14.Endocarditis. National Health Service.
15.Osteomyelitis. National Health Service.
16.Abscess. National Health Service.
17.Tuberculosis (TB). Department of Health.
18.HIV & AIDS. Ministry of Health.
19.Hyperhidrosis. National Health Service.
20.Parkinson’s disease. National Health Service.
21.Skin and sweating. Parkinson’s.
22.Acromegaly. National Institutes of Health.
23.Pheochromocytoma. National Institutes of Health.
24.Hot Flashes and Night Sweats (PDQ®)–Patient Version. National Cancer Institute.
25.Carcinoid syndrome. National Institutes of Health.
26.Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours. National Health Service.
27.Spinal cord trauma. National Institutes of Health.
28.Can You Recognize a Heart Attack or Stroke?. National Institutes of Health.
29.Causes. National Health Service.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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