Summertime is upon us, and that means temperatures everywhere are rising. For many, this annual changing of the seasons comes as a warm welcome, however, some may not be so excited to leave sweater weather behind. This is especially true for those who may always be asking the question, “why do I sweat so much?”
While sweating is a completely normal response to warmer temperatures, what happens if you sweat more than usual? Moreover, is it dangerous to sweat too much? If you find yourself asking these types of questions, you may have a condition known as hyperhidrosis.
In this article, we’ll break down this lesser-known health condition, and talk about what you can do if you suspect you may have it. Let’s first start by tackling the basics: what is hyperhidrosis?
What Is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis, as the name suggests, is a condition in which your body’s sweat glands overact. This overactivity causes you to sweat profusely, oftentimes in places or in situations where other people wouldn’t. These situations may include sweating in cool weather or without any physical activity. Hyperhidrosis can also be caused by other existing conditions, such as menopause or hyperthyroidism.
The excessive sweating caused by hyperhidrosis can affect your entire body, or it may only affect certain areas. The most common areas people with hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating include:
- Soles of the feet
- Face and chest
Hyperhidrosis typically affects both sides of the body equally, for example, both feet or hands. However, some people do experience excessive sweating more on one side of their body than the other, although this is uncommon.
The sweating caused by hyperhidrosis generally doesn’t pose a serious threat to your health, but it can cause serious complications, and can oftentimes be embarrassing and distressing. Hyperhidrosis can also negatively affect your quality of life, which can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Oftentimes, people who frequently ask, “why do I sweat so much” feel as though they are alone in their struggles. However, hyperhidrosis affects millions of people around the world.
Is Hyperhidrosis Common?
While you may have never heard of hyperhidrosis, it’s more common than you may think. According to research published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, about 4.8%, or 15.3 million, of adults in the United States have hyperhidrosis, with some estimates putting that number even higher. Many people don’t seek treatment for hyperhidrosis, as they don’t realize that it is a treatable condition.
To better understand how you can manage and treat your hyperhidrosis, it’s first important to understand what exactly causes it in the first place.
What Causes Hyperhidrosis?
In many cases, hyperhidrosis has no obvious cause. This is what is known as primary hyperhidrosis, and is thought to be the result of a problem with the part of the nervous system that controls sweating. While this type of excessive sweating has no apparent cause, about 30 to 50 percent of people with primary hyperhidrosis have a family history of excessive sweating.
Hyperhidrosis that does have a known cause is called secondary hyperhidrosis and can have many different triggers. These include:
- Pregnancy or menopause
- Low blood sugar
- Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- Certain medications
Depending on the type of hyperhidrosis you have, you may experience different symptoms and triggers that cause you to sweat.
Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis
If you’ve ever stopped to ask yourself, “why do I sweat so much,” chances are you’ve already noticed some of the other telltale signs of hyperhidrosis. While there is no exact guide for what qualifies as “excessive sweating,” if you feel like you sweat more than normal, or in situations where you should otherwise be comfortable, you may have hyperhidrosis.
Aside from asking yourself, “why do I sweat so much,” here are some other common symptoms of hyperhidrosis.
- Excessive sweating that’s occurred for at least six months, and without any apparent reason
- Sweating that interferes with your daily activities such as work or personal relationships
- Sweat that occurs on both sides of your body in roughly the same amount
- A family history of excessive sweating
- Not sweating in your sleep
Any of these symptoms may be an indication that you have hyperhidrosis. Once you’ve taken note of your symptoms, your next step should be to talk with your doctor to obtain a more accurate diagnosis.
How to Diagnose Hyperhidrosis
In many instances, merely asking “why do I sweat so much” is as much a confirmation of hyperhidrosis as a proper diagnosis. With that said, to better treat and understand your excessive sweating, it’s important to talk with your doctor.
Talking to your doctor can help you better understand what the cause, if any, of your hyperhidrosis is. To obtain a proper diagnosis, your doctor will ask you questions about your sweating, such as when and where on your body it occurs. They may also perform specialized tests, such as blood or urine tests, which can help determine if you have hyperhidrosis.
Aside from these tests, your doctor may, in some cases, use other tests to confirm the diagnosis, although these are much less common. These tests can include:
- Starch-iodine test: This type of test involves putting iodine on areas of your body that sweat excessively. After the iodine dries, starch is sprinkled on the same area. If it turns dark blue, you have excessive sweating, and hyperhidrosis is confirmed.
- Paper test: This test is pretty straightforward. A paper test involves putting a specialized piece of paper on an area of the body that is particularly sweaty. The paper absorbs your sweat and is then weighed. A heavier weight means excessive sweating, which can indicate hyperhidrosis.
- Thermoregulatory test: Similar to other hyperhidrosis tests, a thermoregulatory test involves a specialized powder that is sensitive to moisture. This powder changes colors when there are excessive amounts of sweat.
While hyperhidrosis is rarely dangerous, excessive sweating can be a symptom of other, more serious, health conditions. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive sweating is also accompanied by weight loss
- Sweating that primarily occurs while you sleep
- Sweating that is accompanied by chest pain, fever, or shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate or pressure in your chest
Once your doctor has helped you confirm hyperhidrosis, you can move on to treatment. There are several treatment methods you can take, which we’ll cover next.
There are several options for treating excessive sweating. Your doctor will help you determine which option is best for your specific needs, including which works best for your lifestyle. The first option, which also happens to be one of the most commonly prescribed, is specialized antiperspirants.
If your doctor determines that a specialized antiperspirant is best for you, they may prescribe an antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride. This type of antiperspirant is stronger than those you may find over-the-counter and is typically used to treat mild to moderate cases of hyperhidrosis.
Certain medications can help reduce excessive sweating, the most common of which being anticholinergic drugs. Your doctor may prescribe these medications in conjunction with prescription antiperspirants, or more moderate to severe cases of hyperhidrosis.
Anticholinergic drugs, like glycopyrrolate (Robinul), prevent a chemical known as acetylcholine from working. Acetylcholine is a chemical your body produces that helps stimulate your sweat glands. In most cases, these drugs can help bring relief from generalized sweating.
In cases where excessive sweating is contained mostly in your armpits, your doctor may recommend surgery. A procedure known as an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) is a minimally invasive procedure commonly used to treat hyperhidrosis. This procedure involves severing the nerves that carry messages to your sweat glands. Another option is to completely remove the sweat glands from your armpits.
Should prescription medications or antiperspirants not be your choice of treatment, or if your doctor feels they are not right for you, there are plenty of at-home remedies that may bring you relief from excessive sweating.
You can try to reduce sweating by doing some of the following:
- Using over-the-counter antiperspirants
- Bathing daily to get rid of bacteria
- Wearing breathable clothing
- Changing your socks frequently
Several brands make products aimed at stopping excessive sweating and cooling the skin. One such brand is Carpe, which is a line product aimed at helping control and stop excessive sweating. Carpe offers a line of products for all areas of the body. These include antiperspirants, lotions, wipes, and powders, all of which can help absorb and control sweat.
If you find yourself frequently asking, “why do I sweat so much?” it may be time to sit down with your doctor and talk about hyperhidrosis. Excessive sweating can be frustrating, and at times can dramatically interfere with your daily life, but with the right approach and guidance from your doctor, you can manage your sweat levels and live a more fulfilling, sweat-free life.
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