Sweating is a bodily function that helps regulate your body
temperature. Also called perspiration, sweating is the release of a salt-based
fluid from your sweat glands.
Changes in your body temperature, the outside temperature,
or your emotional state can cause sweating. The most common areas of sweating
on the body include the:
- palms of the hands
- soles of the feet
Sweating in normal amounts is an essential bodily process. Not
sweating enough and sweating too much can both cause problems. The absence of
sweat can be dangerous because your risk of overheating increases. Excessive
sweating may be more psychologically damaging than physically damaging.
Your body is equipped with an average of 3 million sweat
glands. There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine sweat glands and apocrine
Eccrine sweat glands
The eccrine sweat glands are located all over your body and
produce a lightweight, odorless sweat.
Apocrine sweat glands
The apocrine sweat glands are concentrated in the hair
follicles of the following parts of your body:
These glands release a heavier, fat-laden sweat that carries
a distinct odor. The smell, referred to as body odor, occurs when apocrine
sweat breaks down and mixes with the bacteria on your skin.
Your autonomic nervous system controls your sweating
function. This is the part of your nervous system that functions on its own,
without your conscious control. When the weather is hot or your body
temperature rises due to exercise or fever, sweat is released through ducts in
your skin. It moistens the surface of your body and cools you down as it
Sweat is made mostly of water, but about 1 percent of sweat
is a combination of salt and fat.
Sweating is normal and occurs regularly in your daily
living. However, a variety of causes can stimulate increased sweating.
Elevated body or environmental temperatures are the primary
cause of increased sweating.
Emotions and stress
The following emotions and conditions can make you break out
in a heavy sweat:
- emotional stress
Sweating may also be a response to the foods you eat. This
type of perspiration is called gustatory sweating.
It can be provoked by:
- spicy foods
- caffeinated drinks, including soda, coffee, and tea
- alcoholic beverages
Medications and illness
Sweating may also be caused by medication use and certain
illnesses, such as:
- fever and fever-reducing drugs
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar
- painkillers, including morphine
- synthetic thyroid hormones
- complex regional pain syndrome (a rare form of chronic
pain that usually affects an arm or leg)
The hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause can also
trigger sweating. Menopausal women often experience night sweats and sweating
during hot flashes.
adjustments for sweating
A normal amount of sweating generally doesn’t require
medical treatment. You can take steps to make yourself more comfortable and
minimize your sweating:
- Wear several light layers of clothing that allow your
skin to breathe.
- Remove layers of clothing as you heat up.
- Wash dried sweat off of your face and body for optimum
- Change out of sweaty clothing to reduce the risk of
bacterial or yeast infections.
- Drink water or sports drinks to replace fluids and
electrolytes lost through sweating.
- Apply an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant to reduce
odor and control sweating.
- Remove foods from your diet that increase your
If illness or medications cause uncomfortable sweating, talk
to your doctor about alternative treatments.
Sweating may indicate a medical problem if it occurs with other
symptoms. Let your doctor know if you experience:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- continued perspiration for an extended period of time
Losing weight from excessive sweating is not normal and
should be checked by a doctor.
The following two conditions result from either excessive sweating
or the absence of sweating. Consult your healthcare provider if you feel you
sweat more than normal or do not sweat at all.
is a condition of excessive sweating from the armpits, hands, and feet. This
condition can be embarrassing and may prevent you from going about your daily
This is the absence of sweat. Sweat is your body’s way of
releasing excess heat. You can become dehydrated and have a higher-than-normal
risk for heatstroke if you suffer from anhidrosis.
Sweating is a normal bodily function. Beginning at puberty,
most people start to use antiperspirants to minimize sweating and odor. Sweating
either too much or too little can indicate a medical problem. Sweating in
conjunction with other symptoms may also indicate a health condition. Make
lifestyle adjustments to accommodate your sweating. If this isn’t enough,
consult your healthcare provider, especially if you feel you sweat too much or
not at all.