Causes of Excessive Sweating

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Do you sweat a lot even when you're not doing much and when it's a nice cool day? You might have a condition called hyperhidrosis. Find out what it is and some of its many causes!

Sweat

Some people barely sweat. Even in a very hot climate it seems like the heat and humidity do not impact their body. Others sweat while simply sitting down, even when there is fair weather outside. Of course, in the latter case, this may be a great source of embarrassment and anxiety. So why do those who do, sweat excessively? It turns out the reasons are as numerous as the sweat drops forming on our body on a hot day.

Hyperhidrosis

Believe it or not, there is actually a technical medical term for excessive sweating. It's known as hyperhidrosis. Hyper- means abnormally high and -hidrosis denotes the production of sweat. Hyperhidrosis results in a lot of sweat production, in excess of what the body needs for thermoregulation. See, sweat helps to keep us cool. As sweat evaporates, it takes a little bit of body heat with it. This cools us down on a hot day. But if the sweating occurs when we do not need this evaporative cooling, when we don't need it to regulate our body temperature (thermoregulation), that's hyperhidrosis.

People with this condition will sweat unpredictably and more so than they should for what they are doing or how they are feeling (e.g. how anxious or stressed they may be). For instance, a person with hyperhidrosis may sweat profusely even when they're simply sitting down and/or when the temperature is nice and cool. While a person with hyperhidrosis can technically sweat from most any parts of the skin, the parts of the body most affected by this are the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and the armpits.

Causes of Excessive Sweating

Again, the causes behind this are numerous. Sometimes, there is absolutely no identifiable cause. This is called idiopathic hyperhidrosis. Other times, the factors behind hyperhidrosis have to do with an abnormal amount or distribution of sweat glands in a particular part of the body, an abnormality with the nerves that innervate the sweat glands of our body, or the blood supply that supplies our sweat glands with nutrients. There may be a genetic component to any of these causes.

In other instances, the person has no such genetic tendencies, and they are actually absolutely fine (they don't have hyperhidrosis) until they experience some sort of situation that leads to hyperhidrosis. All the different ways by which these situations cause hyperhidrosis aren't entirely clear but some may cause the release of various biochemicals that stimulate the sweat glands to produce more sweat and others may change the function of how our blood vessels and/or nerves interact with the sweat glands. These causes and conditions include:

  • Diabetes mellitus, the disorder that cause high blood sugar
  • Cancer, such as a pheochromocytoma, which causes the release of biochemicals that then stimulate lots of sweat production
  • A heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Hyperthyroidism, a disorder that causes the release of a lot of thyroid hormone, a hormone responsible for speeding up biochemical reactions in our body.
  • Drugs, such as insulin
  • Stress, anxiety, and other emotions
  • Pregnancy

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