What is hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)?
Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for profuse sweating. Excessive sweating is hard to define exactly since everyone is different and sweats a different amount. If you feel that you are sweating a lot and it’s beginning to affect your everyday life, you may have hyperhidrosis.
Many people are too embarrassed to visit their GP as they feel that nothing can be done to help them, but there is treatment available. You should also see your doctor if you are experiencing night sweats, as they can be caused by an underlying condition.
What are some excessive sweating symptoms?
The symptoms of hyperhidrosis are straightforward and simple and may include:
- Sweaty armpits
- Sweaty palms / sweaty hands
- Sweaty feet
- A sweaty face / sweaty chest
- Sweaty groin / sweaty crotch
Hyperhidrosis can affect people in different ways, so whilst some people may find that their whole body sweats, others may find that only certain parts of their body are affected.
What causes excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)?
Much of the time, it’s not known exactly what causes excessive sweating. In these cases it’s generally thought to be an issue with the part of the nervous system that controls sweating. This is known as primary hyperhidrosis.
If there is a known cause for your excessive sweating, it’s called secondary hyperhidrosis. This is more likely to affect your entire body rather than just certain parts of it. Reasons for excessive sweating include:
- Low blood sugar
- An overactive thyroid
- Certain medications, such as antidepressants
How can you treat hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)?
There are a variety of ways to treat hyperhidrosis, so it could take a while to find the ideal treatment for you. In cases of secondary hyperhidrosis, addressing the condition that’s causing your sweating may help.
If you don’t know what’s causing your sweating, a good place to start is by using a stronger antiperspirant or making some lifestyle changes such as wearing looser fitting clothing made from natural fibres and wearing colours that don’t show sweat patches. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating spicy foods or drinking alcohol, both of which can trigger sweats.
Medications such as anticholinergics or antimuscarinics are also used to treat excessive perspiration. These work to cancel out the effect of a chemical in the body called acetylcholine, which activates the sweat glands.
In more severe or persistent cases there are options such as botulinum toxin injections, iontophoresis (where the affected area is treated with a weak electric current) and surgery.
What can you do to help prevent hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)?
It can be hard to prevent hyperhidrosis if you don’t know what is causing it. Lifestyle changes can help to prevent excessive sweating. You could try a stronger antiperspirant and loose, lightweight clothes. Avoiding spicy foods and alcohol can help too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sweat?
Sweat is a fluid produced by sweat glands in the skin to help regulate the body’s temperature.
How to stop sweating?
There are treatments that can help to stop sweating. There are some lifestyle changes you can make, such as wearing loose fitting clothing and avoiding spicy foods and alcohol.
Why do I sweat so much?
Excessive sweating can be caused by a number of different factors including anxiety, pregnancy and menopause. Sometimes it’s not obvious what causes it. See above for more information.