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Other Names:
Profuse Sweating, Diaphoresis
Excessive Sweating

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Excessive sweating can be normal (physiologic) e.g. brought on by physical activity, emotional response, high environmental temperature, or it can be a symptom of an underlying disease (pathologic) like tuberculosis, cancer or thyroid disease. Sweating is a mechanism by which the body maintains its temperature. The moisture produced by perspiration (sweating) evaporates, this cools the skin, and therefore the core temperature of the body is maintained. Physiologic sweating occurs characteristically on palms, soles, face, armpits whereas pathologic sweating occurs anywhere in the body.

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  • Physiologic Sweating
    • Strenuous exercise
    • Hot and humid weather
    • Emotional response (being being angry, embarrassed, nervous, afraid, stressed or anxious).
    • Eating spicy foods
    • Drugs (including antipyretics, antipsychotics, sympathomimetics, caffeine, morphine, alcohol and thyroid hormone)
    • Hot flashes and sweating e.g. menopause
  • Pathologic Sweating
    • Sweating accompanied by fever, weight loss, chest discomfort, shortness of breath or palpitations (tuberculosis)
    • Shaking of the hands, thin hairs, smooth skin, rapid pulse and intolerance to heat and cold (Overactivity of thyroid gland).
    • Diabetics who are receiving insulin or oral medication for diabetes may break out a cold sweat when their blood sugar drops too low
    • Periodic sweating or sweating at night without an obvious cause may be caused by an underlying infection such as it occurs in cancer.

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Most people who sweat excessively do not pose a serious problem. However, it can be embarrassing as sweat can sometimes leave yellow stains on the clothing. The excessive sweating can be a problem for people who work with their hands such as artists and musicians. Excessive sweating caused by strenuous exercise (like playing sports) in hot and humid weather can cause dehydration due to loss of water and electrolytes in the sweat.

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What You Can Do

  • After an episode of unusually excessive sweating, the face and body should be wiped dry, wet clothes and bed sheets should be changed.

  • Lost body fluids should be replaced by drinking plenty of water.

  • Room temperature should be adjusted according to the outside weather to prevent additional sweating.

  • Consult your physician about estrogen replacement if you are experiencing menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms.

  • Use an antiperspirant on hands, feet and the underarm area.

  • Consult your physician who may prescribe a tranquilizer (Valium) for those occasions that might make you extra nervous.

  • Some of the options to consider are surgical removal of sweat glands in the affected area, injection of small amounts of Botox to block the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands or surgically damaging or cutting the nerves to the affected sweat glands.

  • Another treatment is called iontophoresis which involves applying a low-level electrical current to the affected area, which blocks the sweat duct.

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Excessive Sweating