Sweating is normal when you do any physical activity such as running, exercising or when exposed to heat. However, when you sweat under conditions that don’t merit sweating such as when sitting or in cold weather, there might be an underlying health issue.
What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is a condition in which a person sweats excessively with no apparent reasons. The sweating may affect the whole body (generalized hyperhidrosis) or parts of the body (focal hyperhidrosis), more commonly:
- The armpits.
- The groin area.
- The soles of your feet.
- The palm of your hands.
- The face and chest area.
Hyperhidrosis is not a life-threatening health condition, but it is uncomfortable, embarrassing and negatively impacts your social life, which could lead to anxiety and depression. On the one hand, when the cause of hyperhidrosis is not known, it’s called primary hyperhidrosis. This type is usually localized and may affect specific body parts like the underarms or the palm of your hands. On the other hand, when hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying medical condition, it is called secondary hyperhidrosis. The International Hyperhidrosis Association reports that nearly three percent of Americans experience hyperhidrosis. This translates to approximately eight million Americans.
Health Conditions That May Cause Excessive Sweating
People who suffer from hyperhidrosis may experience the following symptoms:
- Frequent sweating.
- Sweating that’s noticeable.
- Wet palms of the hand.
- Painful skin conditions.
The following are some of the medical conditions that may trigger excessive sweating.
Certain kinds of cancer can cause excessive sweating. They include carcinoid tumors, leukemia, liver cancer, bone cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The reason why these types of cancer cause abnormal sweating are not fully understood, but preliminary reports suggest that it might be the body’s immune system trying to fight off the cancer cells.
There are many infections that could potentially cause hyperhidrosis as a symptom. They include:
- Chronic infections such as Malaria, transmitted usually by mosquitoes.
- Tuberculosis, a bacterial infection affecting the lungs.
- Brucellosis, a bacterial infection usually caused by exposure to animals or animal waste.
- Acute viral or bacterial infections including common colds and flu.
When a person experiences heart failure, hyperhidrosis may be one of the symptoms. Conditions that can trigger heart failure include a defective heart, congestive heart failure, and endocarditis (heart infection) among other conditions.
Neurological issues that affect the spinal cord and brain can lead to hyperhidrosis. The most common varieties are:
- Stroke, which can be caused by the brain’s inability to obtain blood flow due to a blocked blood vessel or haemorrhage.
- Parkinson’s disease, which is a degenerative condition that affects the brain, eventually causing death.
- Injuries to the spinal cord that severs signal transmission to the brain, thus interrupting thermoregulation. This leads to excessive sweating.
Medical conditions or diseases that affect hormone production and the glands that secrete them are collectively known as endocrine disorders. Some of these disorders are:
- Diabetes. The bodies of people with diabetes lack the ability to regulate insulin. It’s very common for diabetes patients to experience hyperhidrosis.
- Hyperthyroidism. When the thyroid gland overreacts, too many thyroid hormones circulate the body. When your body’s chemical processes boost, it may affect normal sweating.
- Hyperpituitarism. This is when the pituitary gland produces excess hormones, changing the normal functioning of some cells.
Hot flushes are common in menopausal women. When women approach menopause or are in menopause, they report sweating some of which are so severe that the clothes soak wet with sweat. Doctors suspect that fluctuation in estrogen levels may be responsible for the excessive sweating.
Anxiety disorders and acute stress can trigger hyperhidrosis. When a person suffers from stress, the body temperature rises, leading to sweating. This can cause embarrassment, which could lead to anxiety, causing even more sweating. In other instances, psychiatric drugs could also affect normal sweating.
It’s not easy to treat hyperhidrosis, especially if the underlying health condition is unknown. However, you can limit excessive sweating by making lifestyle changes such as wearing light and loose-fitting clothes, limiting alcohol intake and spicy foods, and wearing clothes that don’t show signs of sweating. There are various treatments to try to address this condition and it’s important that you discuss with your doctor the best approach and medications to help fight excessive sweating. Furthermore, Iontophoresis can disable sweat glands temporarily. If the situation worsens, surgery to remove some sweat glands could be the last resort.
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