Excessive sweating

Definition

Excessive sweating is when you sweat more than you might expect based on the surrounding temperature or your activity level or stress. Excessive sweating can disrupt daily activities and cause social anxiety or embarrassment.

Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis), can affect your entire body or just certain areas, such as your palms, soles, underarms or face. The type that typically affects the hands and feet causes at least one episode a week, during waking hours.

Causes

If excessive sweating has no underlying medical cause, it's called primary hyperhidrosis. It happens when excess sweating is not triggered by a rise in temperature or physical activity. Primary hyperhidrosis may be at least partly hereditary.

If the excess sweating is due to an underlying medical condition, it's called secondary hyperhidrosis.

Health conditions that might cause excessive sweating include:

  • Acromegaly
  • Diabetic hypoglycemia
  • Fever of undetermined cause
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Infection
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Malaria
  • Medication side effects, such as sometimes experienced when taking some beta blockers and antidepressants
  • Menopause
  • Neurologic disease
  • Pheochromocytoma (a rare adrenal gland tumor)
  • Tuberculosis

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if your heavy sweating is accompanied by lightheadedness, chest pain or nausea.

Contact your doctor if:

  • You suddenly begin to sweat more than usual.
  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine.
  • You experience night sweats for no apparent reason.
  • Sweating causes emotional distress or social withdrawal.

Last Updated Sep 15, 2020


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