Sweating is normal. But what if it becomes a burden? Find out here about abnormal sweating (hyperhidrosis) and its treatment.
Sweating: Possible causes
Even though sweating is healthy and a vital function, it is often perceived as annoying. Many people would like to avoid sweating. Especially when they begin to sweat profusely at the slightest occasion and minor exertion. How much sweat people produce is individual. Even several liters a day can be normal when sweating, if there is a reason for it – such as sports, fever, heat in the summer or even after eating a spicy food.
Sweat is more noticeable in some places than in others because it is more difficult to evaporate there.
So it is normal that sweat accumulates more easily in some places when sweating. This is the case in skin folds (under the armpits, on the buttocks, in the intimate area, in women under the breast) or where skin touches (in the crotch). In other areas, such as the back or neck, the sweat can evaporate quite well. Persistent sweat on the skin can irritate it, skin changes such as redness or pimples can be a consequence.
But there are also pathological disorders of sweat production. Then the sweating occurs without a reason as mentioned above – for example, without fever, sports or heat. For this reason, experts distinguish between "normal", physiological sweating and pathological sweating.
There can be many triggers or causes behind heavy, pathological sweating. In most cases, one of these phenomena is hidden behind the sweating:
– Infections: Heavy sweating is a typical accompanying symptom of infections such as colds, flu or even malaria. In the case of chronic infectious diseases such as AIDS or tuberculosis, those affected also frequently sweat more. – Hormonal changes: The body often reacts to fluctuations in hormonal balance with heavy sweating and outbreaks of sweat, sometimes even with the slightest exertion. People with a diseased thyroid gland have fluctuations in hormone balance. Therefore, this is a common symptom in them. But also people in menopause, pregnant women and women after childbirth, during breastfeeding, before or during menstruation may sweat more because their hormone balance changes. Sweating or hot flushes in early pregnancy are among the first signs of pregnancy. Many people with hormonal fluctuations sweat in the morning, even in the waking phase, when the body ramps up metabolic activity. : People who are overweight tend to produce more sweat. Mainly because their bodies are more stressed than those of normal-weight people, even during everyday activities. Diabetes mellitus: sweating is a typical warning signal of hypoglycemia in diabetics. – Heart disease: In many diseases of the heart, whether congenital or acquired in the course of life, sudden sweating may occur. Mainly because a sick heart reaches its limits even at low levels of exertion. – Shock and unconsciousness: People in shock often break out in a cold sweat, which can be felt on the cool skin. Shock can be accompanied by unconsciousness, which can be heralded by an outbreak of sweating, among other things. – Neurological diseases: Sweating is common even at an early stage of Parkinson's disease. The disturbed heat regulation is particularly noticeable at night when sleeping as nocturnal sweating. – Cancer: Leukemia and lymph node cancer in particular are often accompanied by heavy sweating, especially at night (so-called night sweats). – Drug use and withdrawal symptoms: Sweating is one of the typical symptoms when the body breaks down alcohol. But not only after the consumption of alcohol, also during the withdrawal of drugs or tablets in the case of tablet addicts, seizure-like sweating can occur, even during sleep.Some sufferers feel as if they are sweating and freezing at the same time.
sweating without any apparent cause
Heavy sweating is a great burden for many sufferers. For example, they are ashamed of sweat stains from sweating under the armpits on their blouses and shirts or find it embarrassing to shake hands with others.
However, people who sweat a lot do not automatically have hyperhidrosis, a condition characterized by pathologically increased sweat secretion. The disease is not defined by the amount of sweat, but by whether there is actually a malfunction of the body behind the sweating. Only then is the heavy sweating pathological.
But not all hyperhidrosis is the same. The disease itself is again subdivided by medical experts:
Sweating without a cause: primary hyperhidrosis
In this form, no cause or underlying disease for the sweating can be found. The body produces more sweat than necessary for reasons that are not clear. About three percent of the population suffers from this form of pathological sweating.
The increased production of sweat does not have a specific cause, but there are usually triggers that initiate sweating: for example, excitement or mental tension. But the triggers can also be absent.
Primary hyperhidrosis usually appears for the first time at the onset of puberty and then accompanies those affected throughout their lives. Doctors were able to determine that this form of pathological sweating is at least partly hereditary.
Sweating with a cause: secondary hyperhidrosis
In the second form, abnormal sweating becomes a symptom of a disease. The possible underlying diseases and causes are numerous. Sweating can occur, for example:
– during an infection such as the flu – during a cold with fever – after a vaccination – during a hormonal change, such as during menopause
Sweating: The diagnosis
Who suffers from sweating and strong sweating, must not immediately to the physician. Especially not when the problem occurs in the short term and the cause is clear, such as a cold.
When do you need to see a doctor?
If the cause is unclear, sweating becomes a problem in the long term or other complaints are added, the phenomenon should be clarified by a medical professional.
What does the doctor do??
Whether sweating is pathological or not is not only determined by the amount of sweat produced. Since people sweat to different degrees, there are no binding measured values that doctors can use as a clear guide.
Therefore, the doctor will start with an anamnesis, a detailed interview. Of particular importance are the age at which the sweating started, whether you feel any other symptoms, whether the sweating has a specific cause, such as physical exertion, and whether you are taking medication. Sweating is a side effect of some medications. Sweating caused by antihypertensives is considered unusual; beta-blockers, for example, tend to have the opposite effect, even though there is no scientific evidence of their effectiveness for pathological sweating.
Following the anamnesis, the doctor can perform further examinations. Depending on the suspected cause, different tests can be considered. Often the doctor does a blood count. Checks the heart (ECG). He can use ultrasound to inspect the internal organs.