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Excessive sweating

Definition

Excessive sweating is when you sweat more than you might expect based on the surrounding temperature or your activity level or stress. Excessive sweating can disrupt daily activities and cause social anxiety or embarrassment.

Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis), can affect your entire body or just certain areas, particularly your palms, soles, underarms or face. The type that typically affects the hands and feet causes at least one episode a week, during waking hours.

Causes

If heavy sweating has no underlying medical cause, it's called primary hyperhidrosis. This type occurs when the nerves responsible for triggering your sweat glands become overactive and call for more perspiration even when it's not needed. Primary hyperhidrosis may be at least partially hereditary.

If the sweating can be attributed to an underlying medical condition, it's called secondary hyperhidrosis.

Health conditions that may cause excessive sweating include:

  • Diabetic hypoglycemia
  • Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart)
  • Fever of undetermined cause
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Heart attack
  • Heat exhaustion
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Leukemia
  • Malaria
  • Medication side effects, such as sometimes experienced when taking some beta blockers and antidepressants
  • Menopause
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Tuberculosis

When to see a doctor

Call 911 or get emergency medical help

Seek immediate medical attention if your heavy sweating is accompanied by:

  • Chills
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher

Schedule a doctor's visit

Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • You suddenly begin to sweat more than usual.
  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine.
  • You experience night sweats for no apparent reason.

Last updated: January 11th, 2018

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