What Causes Excessive Sweating?

Also known as hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating is a medical condition that affects an estimated 4.8 percent of individuals in the United States. Patients with this condition may sweat more than usual in cool weather or in response to stress or emotions such as anger or fear. Generally, hyperhidrosis begins before individuals are twenty-five years old, and patients experience symptoms at least once a week. The sweating associated with this condition may occur for no known reason over six months or more, and the patient will frequently sweat on both sides of their body in similar amounts. 

To diagnose hyperhidrosis, doctors typically rely on the patient's medical history and a physical examination. Blood and urine tests will likely be performed, and some patients will also need to have a starch-iodine or thermoregulatory test. Excessive sweating with no known trigger is frequently diagnosed as primary focal hyperhidrosis, and patients with this form of the condition sweat most often on the hands, feet, underarms, and head. If excessive sweating is due to an underlying medical condition, patients are diagnosed with secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. Treatments for both forms include prescription antiperspirants, iontophoresis, injections of botulinum toxin, and surgery.

Stress

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Patients may notice they have greater volumes of sweat when dealing with intense emotions such as sadness, fear, or anger. These emotions are usually triggered by stressful life events such as the loss of a loved one, and they might also arise due to less intense stress that occurs regularly. Examples of chronic stress include a toxic work environment, bullying, or caring for an elderly or sick family member. Short periods of stress that occur while preparing for a job interview or major presentation could contribute to a worsening of hyperhidrosis, too. 

Patients who notice their symptoms are worse during certain stressful periods may want to keep a journal so they can identify any patterns that may exist in terms of how stress affects their symptoms. Coping mechanisms such as yoga, meditation, or talking with a friend could help reduce stress, and patients should reach out to a counselor if they need help with building healthy stress management techniques.

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Emily Fowler
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