What’s caus­ing you to sweat too much

The rea­sons you sweat be­yond the body’s nor­mal needs ex­plained

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Slungile Bosoga

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.


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.


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

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