Sticky or clammy skin can be
caused by a variety of problems, some of which require emergency medical care.
The moistness of sticky skin is the result of sweating. Any number of things
can cause you to sweat excessively, from shock or a heart attack to an
infection or a panic attack. To relieve the clamminess, the underlying cause
needs to be treated. If the cause seems life threatening, seek medical help
Causes of Sticky Skin
Clammy, sticky, or moist
skin may have any number of causes. However, there are several underlying
causes that produce clammy skin that can be life threatening:
- Heart Conditions. A heart attack, heart failure, endocarditis (which is an infection in
the heart), or structural damage in the heart may cause clamminess.
caused by a heart problem, low blood volume, sepsis, an allergic reaction, or
nerve damage, may produce sticky skin as a symptom.
- Hypoxemia. Low
oxygen levels in the blood—which may be caused by a blocked airway, certain medications,
pneumonia, a pulmonary embolism, emphysema, or heart defects—produces sticky,
- Internal bleeding may produce clammy skin.
- Heat exhaustion causes the skin to feel clammy and sticky to the touch.
- Bites from
animals or insects can produce clammy skin from the pain, the shock, or the
Many different types of
infections, which may be treatable, produce fevers in the body as well as
- viral gastroenteritis
- kidney infection
- valley fever
There are other common
causes of sticky and clammy skin that do not necessarily require emergency
- Panic attacks can produce clamminess.
or low blood pressure, can make your skin feel sticky.
or low blood sugar levels, may also make your skin clammy.
- Hyperthyroidism, which refers to an overactive thyroid, causes clamminess. It is not
life threatening unless the condition becomes severe quickly.
- Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can be treated.
- Menopause often
results in sweating. Treatment for menopause can relieve this symptom and
There are also some less
common causes of clammy skin:
- Chinese restaurant syndrome: Several decades ago, there were reports of certain
reactions after eating Chinese food, including clamminess. The reactions were
thought to have been caused by MSG, a food additive. Many restaurants no longer
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: Alcoholics feel a variety of symptoms after
suddenly stopping drinking, which include clammy or sticky skin.
Treatments for Sticky Skin
Treatment for clammy or
sticky skin depends on the underlying cause. Emergency situations require
immediate medical attention. This includes heart attacks, shock, heat
exhaustion, internal bleeding, and venomous or severe bites.
Some of the infections that
cause clamminess can be treated, such as those caused by bacteria. Others, like
influenza and mononucleosis must simply run their course, although treatment
for symptoms is possible with over the counter medications.
Other possible causes of
clammy skin may be treatable, but require a diagnosis from your doctor. If you
are experiencing sticky skin and you have no explanation for it, see your
When Sticky Skin Is an Emergency
Sticky, clammy skin can be a
sign of a life-threatening condition. If you or someone near you is
experiencing clamminess along with these other symptoms, seek medical attention
- chest pain
- a rapid
breathing or shallow breathing
- swelling in the
mouth, face, or throat
- a weak pulse or
a rapid pulse
- blue fingernails
- loss of
Prognosis for Sticky Skin
Many of the causes of sticky
skin are not life threatening and are treatable. Many infections run their
course or can be cleared up with treatment, especially when caught early. Panic
attack disorders can be treated with counseling and medication. Conditions like
hypotension, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, and menopause can be managed and
symptoms reduced by lifestyle changes or medication.
When clammy skin is the
result of a life-threatening incident, the outlook depends on reaction time and
when emergency medical professionals can get to the victim. If treatment is
administered in time for a heart attack, shock, bleeding, heat exhaustion, and
bites, the victim can make a full recovery.