What Is Hypohidrosis?
Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself off. Some people
aren’t able to sweat normally because their sweat glands are no longer
functioning properly. This condition is known as hypohidrosis, or anhidrosis.
It can affect your entire body, a single area, or scattered areas.
The inability to sweat normally can cause overheating. This can
lead to heat stroke, which is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Hypohidrosis can be difficult to diagnose. This means that mild
hypohidrosis often goes unnoticed. The condition has many causes. It can be
inherited at birth or develop later in life.
What Causes Hypohidrosis?
As you age, it’s normal for your ability to sweat to diminish. Conditions
that damage your autonomic nerves, such as diabetes, also make problems with
your sweat glands more likely.
Any condition that causes nerve damage can disrupt the
functioning of your sweat glands. This includes:
Skin Damage and Disorders
Skin damage from severe burns can permanently damage your sweat
glands. Other possible sources of damage include:
Skin disorders that inflame the skin can also affect your sweat
glands. These include:
Taking certain medications, particularly those known as
anticholinergics, can result in reduced sweating. These medications have side
effects that include a sore throat, dry mouth, and reduction in perspiration.
Some people may inherit a damaged gene that causes their sweat
glands to malfunction. An inherited condition called “hypohidrotic ectodermal
dysplasia” causes people to be born with either very few or no sweat glands.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypohidrosis?
The symptoms of hypohidrosis include:
- minimal sweating even when other people are
- muscle cramps or weakness
- a flushed appearance
- feeling overly hot
Mild hypohidrosis may go unnoticed unless you engage in vigorous
exercise and become overheated because you’re not sweating normally.
How Is Hypohidrosis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will need to take a thorough medical history to diagnose
this condition. You should share all symptoms that you’ve experienced with your
doctor. This includes breaking out in a red rash or skin flushing when you
should be sweating. It’s important to tell them if you sweat in some parts of
your body but not in others.
Your doctor may use any of the following tests to confirm a
diagnosis of hypohidrosis:
- During the axon reflex test, small electrodes are
being used to stimulate your sweat glands. The volume of sweat produced is
- The silastic sweat imprint test measures where
- During the thermoregulatory sweat test, your body
is coated with a powder that changes color in areas where you sweat. You enter
a chamber that causes your body temperature to reach a level at which most
people would sweat.
- During a skin biopsy, some skin cells and
perhaps some sweat glands are removed and examined under a microscope.
How Is Hypohidrosis Treated?
Hypohidrosis that affects only a small part of your body usually
won’t cause problems and may not require treatment. If an underlying medical
condition is causing hypohidrosis, your doctor will treat that condition. This
may help reduce your symptoms.
If medications are causing your hypohidrosis, your doctor may
recommend trying another medication or reducing your dosage. While this isn’t
always possible, adjusting medications may help to improve sweating.
Can Hypohidrosis Be Prevented?
It may not be possible to prevent hypohidrosis, but you can take
steps to avoid serious illnesses related to overheating. Wear loose clothing that’s
in light colors, and don’t overdress when it’s hot. Stay inside if possible,
and take care not to overexert yourself when it’s hot.
You can also take steps to cool your body off and avoid
overheating. This includes applying water or cool cloths to your skin to make
you feel like you're sweating. When the water evaporates, you’ll feel cooler.
If it’s left untreated, hypohidrosis can cause your body to
overheat. Overheating requires quick treatment to prevent it from worsening
into heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening
condition. You should call 911 or visit an emergency room if you’re having a