Sweating and body odor

Overview

Sweating and body odor are common when you exercise or you're too warm. They're also common when you're feeling nervous, anxious or stressed.

Unusual changes in sweating — either excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) or little or no perspiration (anhidrosis) — can be cause for concern. Changes in body odor also may signal a health problem.

Otherwise, lifestyle and home treatments can usually help with normal sweating and body odor.

Symptoms

Some people naturally sweat more or less than other people. Body odor also can vary from person to person. See a doctor if:

  • You suddenly begin to sweat much more or less than usual
  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine
  • You experience night sweats for no apparent reason
  • You notice a change in your body odor

Causes

Sweating and body odor are caused by sweat glands in your body. The two main types of sweat glands are eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. When your body temperature rises, these glands release fluids that cool your body as they evaporate.

Apocrine glands are found in areas where you have hair, such as your armpits and groin. These glands release a milky fluid when you're stressed. This fluid is odorless until it combines with bacteria on your skin.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a problem with sweating and body odor, your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and do an exam. The doctor may test your blood or urine. The tests can show if your problem is caused by a medical condition, such as an infection, diabetes or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Treatment

If you're concerned about sweating and body odor, the solution may be simple: an over-the-counter antiperspirant and deodorant.

  • Antiperspirant. Antiperspirants contain aluminium-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores, thereby reducing the amount of perspiration that reaches your skin.
  • Deodorant. Deodorants can eliminate odor but not perspiration. They're usually alcohol-based and turn your skin acidic, making it less attractive to bacteria. Deodorants often contain perfume fragrances intended to mask odor.

If over-the-counter antiperspirants don't help control your sweating, your doctor may prescribe a prescription product. These are strong solutions that can cause red, swollen and itchy skin in some people.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can do a number of things on your own to reduce sweating and body odor. The following suggestions may help:

  • Bathe daily. Regular bathing, especially with an antibacterial soap, reduces the growth of bacteria on your skin.
  • Choose clothing to suit your activity. For daily wear, choose natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool and silk. These allow your skin to breathe. For exercise wear, you might prefer synthetic fabrics developed to wick moisture away from your skin.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Consider relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These practices can teach you to control the stress that triggers perspiration.
  • Change your diet. Caffeinated beverages and spicy or strong-smelling foods may make you sweat more or have stronger body odor than usual. Eliminating these foods may help.

Preparing for an appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. In some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a specialist in skin diseases (dermatologist).

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your appointment. For sweating and body odor, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What are the most likely causes of my symptoms?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or long lasting?
  • What treatments are available, and which might be best for me?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • How often do you experience these symptoms?
  • Do you always have these symptoms, or do they come and go?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?

Last Updated Sep 24, 2019


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