Excessive Sweating: Why does it happen?
All of us sweat to some degree. There are natural differences in the amount of sweating due to genetic expression in each. When we work out or are in a hot environment, sweating is our body’s mechanism to cool itself down. As the body’s temperature rises, sweat glands produce fluid which is carried to the skin surface to cool it down. However, some people sweat much more than others. This excessive sweating is known as Hyperhidrosis, Seborrhea or Polyhidrosis.
Those who have hyperhidrosis may sweat even without any reason. They may suffer from excessive sweating in the entire body or just a few areas. The condition doesn’t threaten life but can have severe psychological and emotional impact.
Types of Excessive Sweating
There are two kinds of excessive sweating based on medical reasons.
- Primary hyperhidrosis: When the sweating is without any medical problem, it is known as Primary Hyperhidrosis. This happens because the nerves which are connected to the sweat glands become overactive leading to more sweat production than required. It is usually hereditary.
- Secondary Hyperhidrosis: When the excessive perspiration is due to an underlying medical issue, it is known as Secondary Hyperhidrosis.
There are two kinds of excessive sweating based on the location of sweating.
- Focal Hyperhidrosis: When it is only certain areas that have uncontrolled perspiration, it is known as Focal Hyperhidrosis. Hands, arms, face, feet, and groin are the usual areas of excessive sweating.
- Generalized Hyperhidrosis: When the entire body suffers sweats excessively, it is known as Generalized Hyperhidrosis.
Most cases of hyperhidrosis begin in adolescence, but they could develop earlier or later in life.
Causes of Excessive Sweating
Causes of Primary Hyperhidrosis
We all have an ‘on-off’ mechanism when it comes to sweating. The sweat glands of those with primary hyperhidrosis do not have an ‘off’ mechanism to shut down the excessive sweating when it is not required.
It is the eccrine sweat glands that are the majority of sweat glands. These glands supply the face, palms, feet, and armpits. Those who have primary Hyperhidrosis will break into a sweat without any reason or just by thinking of an uncomfortable situation.
Causes of Secondary Hyperhidrosis
In this condition, the excessive sweating affects a general area or all over the body. It is due to some medical problem and may even result in sweating while sleeping. Many medical conditions can cause excessive sweating. Let us take a look at some of them.
When there is a more than normal quantity of thyroid hormones circulating in the system, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism. It raises the metabolic activities in the body leading to speeding up of chemical processes. This may result in excessive sweating.
Many women experience a severe bout of hyperhidrosis in their pregnancy. The cause of excessive sweating in pregnancy may be the hormonal imbalance.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, leukemia, bone and liver cancer, carcinoid tumors, and mesothelioma are known to cause excessive sweating. It may be because of the body heat generated with the body trying to fight cancer.
Psychiatric medicines, high blood pressure drugs, medicines for dry mouth, nutritional supplements and some antibiotics also cause excessive sweating.
Women who are undergoing menopause report feeling hot flushes and excessive sweating. The decreasing estrogen levels and fluctuation of other hormones in the body can cause excessive sweating.
- Psychiatric Issues
When one is feeling stressed or anxious, the body temperature is increased. Even some psychiatric medications lead to an increased activity in the sweat glands. Both of these reasons can cause excessive sweating. Other causes include
- Injury to the spine
- Alcohol abuse
- Heart problems
- Respiratory Distress
- Malaria and TB
- Substance Abuse
It may seem embarrassing but talk to your doctor about your issue. He may ask you about your patterns of sweating. He will also ask which body parts are most affected, about the frequency of the excessive sweating episodes and more. He may expose you to specific tests like thermoregulatory tests to figure out more about your condition.
Dealing with Excessive Sweating
Here are some natural ways to deal with excessive sweating.
- Armpit Shields: these are pads worn in the armpit to avoid staining of clothes by sweat.
- Antiperspirants: these are sprays that plug the sweat glands and thus reduce perspiration.
- Natural Fibers: wearing natural fibers like cotton and linen helps to control excessive sweating. Wearing synthetic fibers like nylon increase perspiration as the skin can’t breathe.
- Footwear: Wear shoes and socks made of natural materials. For shoes, leather is good while there are many kinds of sweat-absorbing socks that come in different colors.
In this, the hands and feet of the person are dipped in water, and an electric current is passed. This is harmless, and it disables the sweat glands from being active temporarily.
Botulinum toxin injections block the sweat glands by disabling the nerves that trigger the sweat release. Several sittings may be needed for the treatment to be effective.
These medications inhibit the nerves from transmitting impulses to cause sweating. About two weeks are needed to notice any improvement.
This is recommended only as the last resort when all other methods of treatment fail. The nerves supplying connection to the sweat glands are severed off.
Non-treatment of excessive sweating can lead to some complications:
- Heat Rash: When the sweat glands become blocked, the perspiration gets trapped inside. A red, itchy rash may develop.
- Infections: Bacterial infections in toes and hair follicles are common.
- Psychological Impact: Self- confidence, personal interactions, and job relations- all suffer because of this.