Medically reviewed by William Truswell, MD
Sweating is essential. Sweat glands in your skin produce the salty liquid that helps cool off your body, so you don't get overheated. You likely sweat more in warm weather or when you're physically active. Menopause, fever, and moments of anxiety can also make you sweat more. The main areas of sweating are the underarms, palms, and feet, though you can sweat all over.
Most of the time, sweating stops when you're sufficiently cooled off. But sometimes, you can sweat too much or sweat even though you don't need cooling. This is called hyperhidrosis. This article covers the reasons you may sweat a lot, how to tell if you're sweating too much, and when to see a healthcare provider.
How Much Sweat Is Too Much?
You may wonder how much sweat per day is "normal." There's no true normal because everyone sweats at their own rate.
Sweating a lot when you're out in the hot sun or exercising is normal and healthy. Continuing to pour sweat even when you're resting in a cool environment is not. So, if you frequently ask why you sweat so much for no apparent reason, you may have hyperhidrosis.
How to Tell If You’re Sweating Too Much
Signs and symptoms of excessive sweating may include:
You sweat profusely for no obvious reason.
Your palms sweat so much that you leave puddles on surfaces. You avoid shaking hands.
You purposely stay away from things that increase sweat, such as exercise, dancing, or going outside on a warm day.
You frequently have to change damp clothing or shower multiple times a day.
You carry a towel or handkerchief to mop up sweat.
You have body odor due to excessive perspiration, even though you shower frequently.
You're sweating much more than is normal for you, and it's causing distress.
When sweating isn't caused by a systemic disorder or other condition, it's called primary hyperhidrosis. Signs of primary hyperhidrosis include:
Sweat occurs on both sides of the body, such as both palms or both feet.
You typically don't sweat during the night.
It happens at least once a week, but generally more often.
It started when you were a child or teen.
Your skin gets irritated or infected where you sweat.
When excessive sweating is the result of another condition, it's called secondary hyperhidrosis or diaphoresis. This type generally starts in adulthood and is more likely to involve whole-body sweat and sweat during sleep.
What Causes Excessive Sweating?
In primary hyperhidrosis, there's a family history of the condition 30% to 50% of the time, which suggests there may be a genetic component. It's not always possible to determine the cause of secondary hyperhidrosis, though it's usually related to a drug or systemic condition.
Excessive sweating can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Treatment for hyperthyroidism can include drugs such as anti-thyroid medicines or beta-blockers, radioiodine therapy, and surgery.
Diabetes is a serious condition that requires monitoring and managing blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Treatment may include taking insulin or other medications.
Hot flashes and night sweats are common in menopause. You don't necessarily need treatment for menopause. But when symptoms are a problem, a healthcare provider can prescribe hormone-based and nonhormonal medications that may help with hot flashes.
Excessive sweating can be a side effect of medications such as:
Analgesics (pain medications), including opioids
Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Nicotine-replacement therapy products
Speak with your healthcare provider if you think your hyperhidrosis is due to one or more medications. They may be able to adjust your medications or help you manage excessive sweating.
Other potential causes of hyperhidrosis are:
Tumors or certain types of cancer
Drug or alcohol misuse or withdrawal
How to Stop Sweating So Much
Tips for staying a bit drier include:
Use an antiperspirant every morning. You can also apply it on dry skin before going to bed. Check labels carefully because deodorants mask body odor but don't slow or stop sweating. Look for clinical-strength antiperspirant, which you can buy without a prescription.
Wear loose-fitting, breathable fabrics, especially moisture-wicking fabrics. Avoid clothes that are too tight. It's also a good idea to keep a change of clothes handy.
Use underarm liners or disposable underarm pads to absorb moisture.
Choose shade over direct sunlight whenever possible.
Try keeping a sweat journal to find out if there are triggers you can avoid. Common sweat triggers include heat, anxiety, and foods and drinks that contain:
Hot pepper (hot sauce)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Spices such as curry or cumin
Tips for managing sweaty feet include:
Wear sandals when possible to allow your feet to breathe.
Choose shoes made from natural materials.
Make sure shoes dry out thoroughly before you wear them again.
Wear socks that wick away moisture (not cotton), and change them if wet.
When to Contact a Healthcare Provider
Contact a healthcare provider if sweating is excessive or prolonged for no obvious reason. Or if you also have signs and symptoms such as:
Chest pain or pressure
Shortness of breath
Rapid or pounding heartbeat
Excessive perspiration can have a profound effect on quality of life. Research suggests that it can lead to decreased sense of well-being and increased anxiety and depression. Seeing a healthcare provider can help you identify the cause. This may involve:
Giving a complete medical history
Getting a physical examination
Taking a starch iodine test, which helps detect excessive sweating
Using a VapoMeter, a device that measures water loss and sweat
A healthcare provider can prescribe stronger antiperspirants than you can get over the counter. Treatment can also include topical and systemic therapies.
In some cases, your provider might recommend a medical procedure, such as iontophoresis (a weak electric current in water is applied to the hands or feet) or radiofrequency (a device is applied to destroy sweat glands). If nothing else works, there's also a surgical option.
Sweating is the body's way of preventing overheating. Most people sweat more in certain situations, such as physical activity or hot weather. Sweating profusely when conditions don't call for it can be distressing.
In some cases, treating an underlying condition may resolve the sweating. But sometimes, there's no obvious cause. There are some things you can do that might help decrease sweating. If they don't work or if you have other symptoms, it's best to see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.