A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Sweating: How much is too much?

You sweat when exercising or doing daily activities. It’s your body’s mechanism to stay cool throughout the day.

But how do you know when sweating is normal or an underlying health condition? It depends on how much you sweat.

Here’s what the moisture under your arms may indicate.

Everyday sweat

Illustration of a man drenched in sweat - When is sweating a problem?

Excess sweating that’s localized affects a certain part of the body like the armpits, hands or feet.

Hyperhidrosis is when the body sweats too much. This condition can be localized or generalized.

Excess sweating that’s localized affects a certain part of the body like the armpits, hands or feet.

“I’ve had people who can’t play the piano or a musical instrument because their hands sweat so much,” said Dr. Lawrence Scherrer, a Marshfield Clinic dermatologist. “This is the type of sweating I deal with most.”

Dr. Scherrer says this sweating tends to run in families. It starts as a teenager in social interactions. Many times it’s from stress and can be worse because of social situations like anxiety about shaking hands, meeting someone new or going on a date.

A few options are available to treat localized sweating. Dermatologists usually start with an over-the-counter or prescription antiperspirant that contains aluminum chloride. The next step is prescribing medication in pill form that tells sweat glands to stop sweating.

For more extreme situations, surgical treatments can be used, but this is very rare. Sometimes doctors use Botox® to help with sweating.

Unfortunately, sweating offers no known beauty benefits.

“I’ve heard things like a sauna can help because it opens pores and is detoxifying,” Dr. Scherrer said. “But I don’t know of any information that suggests that.”

Full body sweating can be a problem

When a person sweats all over their body it is called generalized sweating.

“This can indicate a medical problem or underlying medical issue,” Dr. Scherrer said. “It can include diabetes or thyroid problems. Some people even wake up drenched in sweat, which is what we call ‘night sweats.’”

What if you don’t sweat?

Not sweating is the complete opposite of generalized sweating. Some genetic conditions can result in a person not having sweat glands. But if you have sweat glands and don’t sweat, an underlying medical issue could be the cause.

“Because it’s a mechanism to stay cool, if someone doesn’t sweat they can overheat,” Dr. Scherrer said. “So it’s something to be aware of and talk to your doctor about.”

If you think you have a problem with sweating too much or not at all, talk to your doctor or make an appointment.

2 Comments
  1. Sep 29, 2016
    • Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor Sep 29, 2016

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