What’s causing you to sweat too much
The reasons you sweat beyond the body’s normal needs explained
SWEATING is the act of secreting fluid from the skin by the sweat glands, which are small tubular glands situated within and under the skin. Sweat is a transparent colourless acidic fluid with a peculiar odour. It contains some fatty acids and mineral matter, which is also called perspiration.
Sweating is a normal reaction when your body is working harder and needs to cool itself down. Problems arise when sweating is excessive and when you sweat profusely in the absence of high temperatures, anxiety and fever. Excessive sweating can develop at any age – during childhood or soon after puberty. It can affect one specific area or the whole body. This normally occurs in the hands, feet, armpits and the groin because of the relatively high concentration of sweat glands in these parts of the body.
There are no guidelines to determine what “normal” sweating is, but if you feel you sweat too much and your sweating has started to interfere with your everyday daily life, you may have hyperhidrosis.
The cause of this disorder is unknown; many people with primary hyperhidrosis have a family history of the condition. It can also be classified as secondary hyperhidrosis, which means the person sweats too much because of an underlying health condition such as menopause, pregnancy, gout, obesity, overactive thyroid gland, anxiety, low blood sugar, infections, diabetes and tuberculosis. Some medication can also cause excessive sweating such as psychiatric drugs, antibiotics, blood pressure medication and some supplements.
Sweating too much can make you feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. It may stain your clothes. Hyperhidrosis of the soles may not only result in smelly feet, but may also damage footwear. People with hyperhidrosis of the palms are often embarrassed by a cold and wet handshake. They may have trouble using keypads and other electronic equipment.
Excessive sweating can also make you prone to skin infections such as warts and eczema.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
A person with hyperhidrosis may also experience the following signs and symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, increased thirst, increased urination, cough, increased chest pains and nausea.
A person with excessive sweating also experiencing the following signs should see a doctor: ■ Night sweats: If you are waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat or you find your pillowcase and sheets damp in the morning. ■ Asymmetrical sweating: If you notice that you are only sweating from one side of your body, like one armpit. ■ Generalised sweating: If you are sweating all over your body, and not just from your head, face underarms, groin, hands or feet. ■ Sudden changes: If your sweating has suddenly gotten worse without a specific reason. ■ Late onset: If you develop excessive sweating when you are middle aged or older. ■ Changes in your body after changing medication: If an outbreak of excessive sweating started after taking new medication.
To make the diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical examination to determine the presence of sweat, and will usually do medical tests to rule out any underlying conditions that might be causing hyperhidrosis.
Doctors normally use two simple tests to confirm the condition in ther patients. These tests include: ■ Starch iodine test: A doctor applies iodine solution to the sweaty area and then sprinkles starch to look for a dark blue or purple colour. This colour indicates the area where there is a problem of excessive sweating. ■ Paper test: A doctor places special paper on the area where sweating is observed. Sweat absorbs into the paper and then the paper is weighed. The weight of the paper after the test indicates how much sweat was absorbed and the relevant treatment is prescribed. WHAT TO DO? There are general measures you can use at home to reduce excessive sweating, before treatment can be recommended, such as: ■ Rotating shoes so you do not wear the same pair two days in a row. ■ Going barefoot when possible. ■ Avoiding any triggers for sweating such as spicy food and caffeinated drinks. ■ Wearing loose-fitting, stain-resistant and sweat-proof clothes. ■ Changing clothing and footwear when damp. ■ Wearing socks containing silver or copper reduce infection and odour. ■ Using absorbent insoles in shoes. ■ Using a non-soap cleanser. ■ Applying talcum powder after bathing.
CONTROLLING THE SYMPTOMS
Since there is no exact cure for primary hyperhidrosis, there are ways to control the symptoms which include: ■ Antiperspirants: Special overthe-counter or prescription sprays, lotions and roll-ons can help control symptoms. ■ Medication: Some medication can stop sweat glands from kicking into action. ■ Botox: Botox injections can temporarily stop nerves from triggering excessive sweating. Your doctor needs to approve this treatment for excessive underarm sweating. ■ Surgery: The approach is to cut a nerve in the chest that triggers excessive sweating. Another is to surgically remove some of the sweat glands.
Doctors can prescribe a treatment that will help you keep the sweating under control