Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
What is excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)?
Excessive sweating is when the body releases too much fluid from the sweat glands.
It’s also called hyperhidrosis. It’s often an ongoing (chronic) condition. Sweating
is a normal process. It helps manage body temperature and other processes of the body.
But excessive sweating is more than is needed to do this. Excessive sweating can affect
the entire body, but it usually occurs in the palms, soles, armpits, or groin area.
The symptoms can start when you’re a child and continue into adulthood.
What causes excessive sweating?
In most cases, the cause isn’t known. This is known as primary hyperhidrosis. But
it may be caused by thyroid problems, low blood sugar, nervous system disorders, medicines,
or other problems. This is known as secondary hyperhidrosis. In some cases, the cause
of hyperhidrosis can be serious.
Who is at risk for excessive sweating?
A person is more at risk for excessive sweating if they have any of the below:
What are the symptoms of excessive sweating?
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each person. The main symptom of hyperhidrosis
is heavy sweating that:
Can cause problems with daily activities, work, and social events
Happens during the day but not at night
May happen with no physical activity
Is not affected by temperature
The sweating occurs most often in any or all of these areas:
Bottoms of the feet
In some cases, it may also occur in these areas:
Under the breasts
Areas that produce excessive sweat usually appear pink or white. In severe cases,
the skin may appear cracked, scaly, and soft, especially on the feet. You may also
have odor caused by bacteria and yeast on the wet skin.
The symptoms of excessive sweating can be like other health conditions. Make sure
to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is excessive sweating diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your provider
will give you a physical exam. You may also have tests, such as a blood test to check
for thyroid problems.
How is excessive sweating treated?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, your age, and your general health. It will
also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment may include:
Antiperspirant. An antiperspirant that has 10% to 15% aluminum chloride can block sweat glands and
help stop sweating. It comes in creams, sticks, gels, and sprays. You can buy antiperspirant
at a drugstore. Or your healthcare provider may give you a stronger prescription antiperspirant
that has 20% aluminum chloride. Antiperspirant should be applied to dry skin at night
before bed. It needs to be applied every night for a week or 2, and then once or twice
a week or as needed. This can irritate the skin for some people. This medicine is
not used on the face.
Anticholinergic medicine. This medicine can be taken by mouth to help reduce sweating. Possible side effects
can include blurry vision, dry mouth, dry eyes, and constipation. A version for the
skin (topical) has recently become available.
Botulinum toxin. This medicine is injected into the areas with sweat glands. It can help prevent sweat
glands from working normally for a few months. You’ll need to get injections every
few months. It can be painful and costly.
Iontophoresis. This treatment uses electricity to block sweat glands. Moist pads are put on the
skin, or your hands or feet are placed in shallow water. Chemicals may be added to
the water. An electrical current is sent through fluid. The process is done several
times a week until sweating is reduced, and then once a week or as advised.
Surgery. In severe cases, surgery can be done to remove your sweat glands. Or surgery can
be done to cut the nerves that send signals to the sweat glands. Either of these types
of surgery can stop sweat permanently. But it can lead to compensatory hyperhidrosis.
This means you will start sweating from another part of your body.
Treating another health condition or changing a medicine. A health condition or a medicine can cause secondary hyperhidrosis. If that's the
case, excessive sweating can be managed by treating the health condition or by changing
a medicine. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about these changes if you
have secondary hyperhidrosis.
Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects
of all treatments.
What are possible complications of excessive sweating?
You may have skin problems in the areas where you sweat. The skin may become moist,
pale, swollen, and soft enough to rub away easily. This is known as skin maceration.
It can lead to loss of skin, pain, and skin infection. You can help prevent this problem
by treating your hyperhidrosis and keeping your skin dry as much as possible.
Living with excessive sweating
Hyperhidrosis may be caused by or made worse by emotional stress and heat. It can
also cause problems with work and social life. You may have stains on your clothes
and not want to shake hands with people. It can be upsetting to cope with the problems
of excess sweat. Talk with your healthcare provider about:
Individual counselling if you are feeling isolated or depressed
Ways to prevent skin maceration
Other ways to manage your condition long-term
The following strategies may also help:
If you are bothered by odor, try bathing daily with antibacterial soap and drying
Let your shoes dry completely before wearing them again. Try not to wear the same
pair of shoes 2 days in a row. Wearing leather shoes or sandals can help keep your
Wear cotton socks or socks that pull moisture away from the skin. Change your socks
during the day if needed.
Wear dress shields. These are pads you can place under your arms.
Keep an extra shirt, pants, or pair of socks with you if it makes you feel more secure
about being in public. It will give you the option to change your clothes if necessary.
Consider keeping a sweat journal that identifies specific triggers. Triggers might
include certain spices or foods such as caffeine, chocolate, hot sauce, spicy foods,
If your sweating is triggered by stress, relaxation methods, like yoga, may help.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call the healthcare provider if you have:
Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse
Signs of a skin infection
Chest pain, shortness of breath, or fast heartbeat while sweating
Sweating during sleep
Other new symptoms
Key points about excessive sweating
Excessive sweating it when the body releases too much fluid from the sweat glands.
It’s also called hyperhidrosis. It’s often an ongoing (chronic) condition.
Excessive sweating can affect the entire body, but it usually occurs in the palms,
soles, armpits, or groin area.
In most cases, the cause isn’t known. It may be caused by thyroid problems, low blood
sugar, nervous system disorders, medicines, or other problems.
The condition can affect a person's quality of life and cause social isolation and
depression. Mental health counseling may help.
Treatment may include antiperspirant, medicine, injections, surgery, or treatments
for another health condition.
Skin maceration can lead to loss of skin, pain, and skin infection. You can help prevent
this problem by treating your hyperhidrosis, and keeping your skin dry as much as
possible, and getting medical care if signs of an infection occur.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help you. Also
know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.