How many times have you found yourself wondering, “Why do I sweat so much?”
You’re not alone. There are millions of people out there who find themselves asking the same question. The good news is, there’s probably a reason that you sweat excessively. And once you determine the cause, it’s a lot easier to treat the problem.
12 Possible Causes for Excessive Sweating:
- 1. Hyperhidrosis (Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis)
- 2. High number of sweat glands
- 3. Diet
- 4. Heat and Humidity
- 5. Anxiety and Stress
- 6. Physical Exertion and Exercise
- 7. Pregnancy
- 8. Menopause
- 9. Diabetes
- 10. Puberty
- 11. Medications
- 12. Unrelated Disease (Secondary Hyperhidrosis)
Understanding how sweat works is the first step to understanding why you might be sweating more than normal.
Why do we sweat?
You might think sweat is just a spontaneous oozing of salty secretions on you skin. But there’s more to sweat than soggy armpits and sweaty handshakes.
Sweating is a critical cooling function that keeps you from overheating.
Think of a car. Your metabolism is like the engine of car. As it runs it produces heat. If a car engine gets too hot, it will quickly overheat and stop. To prevent this, your car has a radiator that circulates coolant around and through the engine. The coolant carries away excessive heat and keeps the engine cool and running.
When your body “engine” heats up, it too is at risk of overheating and shutting down (heat stroke). Fortunately, your body has coolant too! Your extra body heat gets released through sweat glands in the form of sweat on your skin. When body temperatures get extreme, your body will produce even more sweat to expel that extra heat.
Exercise, stressful situations, or digesting large amounts of protein (meat sweats) are just a few things that can trigger excessive sweating.
For some, excessive sweating happens without warning and for no reason. Even normal breathing can produce a set of sizable sweaty armpit stains.
Why do I sweat so much?
Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, this question can take us down different paths leading to very different conclusions. Let’s explore some of the reasons you might be sweating more than normal.
Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by excessive, often unpredictable sweating. It’s the kind of sweating that’s more than the body needs to cool itself. Way more. Four to five times more than normal. The sweating can occur at any time and for no reason. And while it’s a physiological condition, people who have it affirm that it also messes up their quality of life– socially, emotionally and psychologically.
A 2016 study involving more than 2000 participants, conducted by the International Hyperhidrosis Society, found that anxiety and depression were significantly higher in those with hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis affects an estimated 15.3 million people in the United States. (International Hyperhidrosis Society estimate.) It can affect the whole body or be isolated to specific areas of the body such as the hands, feet, face and forehead. It Hyperhidrosis usually begins in the adolescent years.
Excessive underarm sweating, also known as axillary hyperhidrosis, is one of the most common types of hyperhidrosis. Other types of hyperhidrosis include: palmar hyperhidrosis (sweaty hands), hyperhidrosis of the feet (sweaty feet), and craniofacial hyperhidrosis (sweaty face and head).
Unfortunately, how or why hyperhidrosis occurs is still a mystery, although heredity is thought to play a major role. All types are caused by an overstimulation of the sweat glands. In some cases, hyperhidrosis is a side effect of more serious underlying health conditions. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about irregular, unexplained or excessive sweating. Don’t suffer in silence.
While we’re talking about it, here’s a list of hyperhidrosis treatments to discuss with your doctor (or dermatoligist).
Tip: If you’re wondering “Why do I sweat so much all the time?” do a little research on hyperhidrosis. Then, talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to accurately diagnose hyperhidrosis (either primary focal hyperhidrosis or secondary/generalized hyperhidrosis) and recommend the best possible excessive sweating treatments for you.
2. High Number of Sweat Glands
If you feel you sweat more than normal, the answer could simply be that you have more sweat glands. The average person has about 2 million sweat glands. The most common, Eccrine glands can be found everywhere except inside your ear canals, on your lips and on the genitals.
The area of greatest concentration is on the bottoms of your feet. Your lower back has the least concentration of sweat glands.
Apocrine glands, the other kind of sweat gland, are concentrated in your armpits. They’re also found on your scalp, eyelids, around your nipples and in your groin area. Perhaps that answers the question, “Why do I sweat so much down there?”
Some people have up to 5 million sweat glands. The equation is simple. More sweat glands equals more sweat. In other words, you just won the genetic lottery when it comes to sweat glands! Aren’t you lucky?
Tip: Why do I sweat so much more than others? Genetics may be the answer. Try some simple lifestyle hacks to reduce your profuse perspiration.
- Bathe daily
- Air your feet often
- Wear breathable and loose clothing
- Try a good antiperspirant
Your diet matters. You really are what you eat. Your eating habits can have a significant impact on your sweating.
Take for example, capsaicin, an active compound found in chili peppers. It’s what creates the heat spicy food lovers crave. This little-known substance fools your body into thinking that the temperature is rising. The result… a side of “sweat tacos” with those spicy nachos.
Spicy foods aren’t the only ones to blame… sweat inducing fatty foods, alcoholic beverages, and foods high in sodium can also contribute to excess sweating.
And there’s more…
Caffeine loaded beverages such as coffee, black tea, and many soft drinks, also contribute to more sweating… also known as caffeine sweating or coffee sweats.
There are some people who sweat excessively when eating any food, even ice cream. Some sweat profusely just thinking about food. It’s called gustatory hyperhidrosis or Frey’s Syndrome.
Abnormal sweating when eating or sweating after eating can also occur for no known reason or can be a result of secondary hyperhidrosis. Diabetes, chronic headaches, shingles, herpes and Parkinson’s have all been known to cause gustatory sweating.
If you’re interested in learning more about diet and sweating, check out these article about foods that make sweat and another about foods that can reduce sweating.
Tip: If you’re wondering why you sweat so much for no reason, take a look at what you eat. Cut back on caffeinated beverages, hot or cold. Stay away from fatty foods and avoid alcohol. Your sweating after eating may improve and you’ll feel and look better.
4. Heat and Humidity
Hot, humid days are times when most of us get hit with tsunami-like waves of sweat. Like built -in fire suppression sprinklers, your sweat glands turn on to cool you down with refreshing sweat secretions. It’s normal. It’s healthy. It’s how your body fights overheating.
If you live in a hot climate that’s also humid, you’ll sweat more and the humidity in the air will hinder evaporation. That means your sweat is going to stick with you throughout the day. It’s simple. If you wear heavy, non-breathable clothing in warm weather, you’re going to sweat. And if it’s humid, well, that sweaty moisture is going to hang around awhile. Taking a couple of showers each day will help.
Tip: Why do I sweat so much when it’s hot? Heavy sweating when it’s hot is normal. But if you sweat even more than what the body needs to regulate its internal temperature, there are some things you can do to minimize the sweaty problem.
- Taking multiple showers each day will help
- Carry a handkerchief to wipe away perspiration on your face, neck, and head.
- Try applying an antiperspirant to control underarm sweating
- Wear light and loose clothing during those hot, muggy days
- Make sure you stay hydrated.
5. Anxiety and Stress
Challenging workouts (when sweating is accepted and even welcomed) and sweltering weather are not the only times you find might yourself drenched in salty sweat. We’ve all had uncomfortable, sweaty moments. First dates, tense interviews, important presentations and nerve wracking proposals all cause normal people to sweat more. What do these situations have in common? They all create higher levels of stress and anxiety.
As humans, we experience stress and anxiety almost daily. Stress puts your body on high alert and activates your flight or fight reaction. This human survival mode increases blood flow, heart rate, body temperature, and sweat output. Sweat production during high stress situations is completely normal and healthy. It’s just really unpleasant and can be embarrassing too.
Nervous sweating is a physiological response to psychological stress. Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish is a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Sweat Disorders in Baltimore, Maryland. She says, “Involuntary sweating is like your body betraying you.” In the worst way we want to appear confident but our body is saying, “I’m not sure I can do this.” And it’s a vicious circle. We sweat because we’re nervous and then we start feeling nervous because we’re sweating.
If sweating is excessive during stressful situations, it could indicate a more serious condition like hyperhidrosis. This kind of heavy sweating is often called “nervous sweating” or “stress sweat” and can usually be controlled with a strong antiperspirant.
Tip: Why do I sweat so much when nervous? Because you may feel a lack of control or confidence. Preparing in advance for anxious situations will help:
- Visualize events unfolding just the way you want them to
- Spend some time in quiet meditation and try letting go of your need to be in control
- A dependable antiperspirant can help increase your confidence level
6. Physical Exertion and Exercise
Let’s answer the question, “Why do I sweat so much when I exercise?” Remember, sweating is all about controlling temperature. When you exercise, as in an intense workout, eccrine sweat glands are mobilized into action to keep body temperature stable. Your brain’s thermostat (the hypothalamus) triggers sweat glands to release that all-too-familiar salty mixture of water, salt and electrolytes we call perspiration.
But it’s not just temperature that causes us to sweat. During exercise your heart rate, blood pressure and heavy breathing also cause your sweat glands to work overtime. Even when your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal, sweating can continue for a while because your muscles stay stimulated.
Exercise will cause you to sweat, and the more strenuous the activity, the more you’ll perspire. “But,” you ask, “why do I sweat so easily when other people seem to stay dry?” One factor could be your health and fitness. A person who is out of shape, overweight or not physically fit is more likely to sweat more profusely than a someone who keeps themselves physically fit.
Tip: Don’t worry about lots of sweating while exercising. It’s normal. It’s expected. Carry a small towel with you to wipe your sweaty forehead, neck and the palms of your hand. Avoid offending the person next to you because your work-out clothing hasn’t been washed in a week or you forgot to wear deodorant.
Raging Pregnancy hormones can bring on more than weird food cravings and crazy mood swings. Yes, it’s a bumpy ride that can also bring along hemorrhoids, acne, bleeding gums. And you guessed it, lots of sweating.
Pregnancy increases hormone levels, metabolism and blood flow through your body, which in turn, increases sweat production. You’ll feel it most during the first and third trimester. Some women tend to sweat even more after pregnancy as their body regulates hormone levels and sheds stored water weight.
Other possible causes of excessive sweating during pregnancy can include a higher-than-normal BMI and the little tyke taking shape inside you. Your pride-and-joy-to-be can heat up your internal oven like never before. You’ll feel the heat but the little he or she will remain comfy and safe. Face it, as wonderful as pregnancy can be, you’re bound to feel a little uncomfortable for a few months.
Tip: Excessive sweating during pregnancy is just a part of the process. You can minimize your sweaty discomfort by:
- Avoiding hot environments
- Eating reasonably (even for two) and avoiding spicy foods
- Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing
- Drinking lots of water
- Making sure any medications you’re taking aren’t making things worse
The heat spike starts in your chest. Like a bullet train it moves up to your neck and head. Beads of sweat form. Soon sweat is running down your face. The hot flash lasts for four or five minutes but seems 10 times longer. If you’re a woman, welcome to menopause.
Unfortunately, hot flashes and night sweats are some of the most common symptoms of Menopause. Like pregnancy, doctors believe that these flashes are caused by changing levels of estrogen. Do you see a pattern here? The more my hormones change, the more I sweat.
If you’re a woman between the ages of 45 and 55, your excessive sweating is probably due to menopause.
While normal aging is responsible for menopause in most women, surgery, and chemotherapy can also cause menopause. The duration and frequency of hot flashes and night sweats will differ from one woman to another. On average, you may experience menopausal hot flashes, and the excessive sweating they may bring on, for about five years.
Tip: If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why do I sweat so much when I’m sleeping?” and you’re in your mid-forties or older, menopause may be the answer. Some helpful hints that can lessen the effects of excessive sweating due to menopause include:
- Keep the temperature cool
- Place a fan close to you while in bed
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Learn to relax
- Stay hydrated
There are at least two reasons why those who have diabetes sweat more than normal. The first is because those with diabetes tend to be overweight. When your body has to carry around extra weight, it means more work, and you guessed it, more sweat.
The second reason is high glucose levels because of poor diabetes management. A loss of nerve function can occur when blood sugar levels are elevated for too long. It’s called diabetic neuropathy. If the sweat gland nerves are damaged, they can’t communicate clearly with the sweat glands. Nerve message confusion can mean excessive sweating. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about half of those who suffer from diabetes have or will have neuropathy.
Tip: The best way to control excessive sweating due to diabetes is to control blood glucose levels. Making sure insulin dosing levels are correct is essential. Eating a snack before going to bed can help reduce night sweats caused by low blood sugar. Exercise can also play an important role. Talk with your doctor to make sure your treatment practices and daily regimen are aligned with good diabetes care.
Pimples, voice cracks and growth spurts are all common symptoms of puberty. A less common symptom of puberty is overactive sweat glands– about 3 million (on average) of them.
During puberty, your body experiences hormonal changes, body growth and a myriad of new emotions which all can lead to a very sweaty teen. This seems like piling on, since going through puberty is hard enough without having to throw in extra sweat with the awkward middle school photos.
Excessive sweating in both boys and girls during puberty is not uncommon. Besides experiencing a whole new range of emotions, pubescent teens will begin to sweat in new places. Add new emotional stress to newly activated apocrine sweat glands and the result is more sweat.
Tip: Question– Why do I sweat so much for a girl (or boy)? If you’re 12 to 15, the answer may be puberty. Here are some ways to help control new excessive sweating due to puberty.
- Make sure you’re always wearing clean clothes. Stash an extra shirt in our backpack or in your school locker.
- If underarm sweat has suddenly become a problem, try an antiperspirant or sweat absorbing pads in clothing.
- Shower every day.
Think back to the last drug commercial you watched on TV. Remember that lightning-fast list of side-effects that appeared at the bottom of the screen at the end? When everyone is flying kites, riding bikes and jumping around like hobbits? This is when pharmaceutical companies quickly list some of the unwanted side effects of their medicines. The proverbial small print.
One of those small print items is sometimes Diaphoresis– a side effect you’ll often hear on these ad disclaimers. This inconvenient sweat condition is characterized by “sweating, especially to an unusual degree as a symptom of disease or a side effect of a drug.” Medications may help relieve specific symptoms, but they also bring a host of their own side effects – like diaphoresis.
Tip: Medicines can cause excessive sweating. If you think you sweat so much for no reason, check the medications you’re taking. Ask your doctor if your medication could be causing you to sweat more than normal.
12. Unrelated Disease
Sometimes an unrelated disease or disorder can cause abnormally profuse sweating. When this happens, it’s called secondary hyperhidrosis or generalized hyperhidrosis. It’s caused by another, unrelated medical condition.
People who suffer from secondary hyperhidrosis usually experience sweating over larger areas of their bodies. They can also experience excessive sweating while sleeping. Treating the underlying disease will usually cure the sweating problem. Only a doctor can diagnose secondary hyperhidrosis.
Tip: If you’re sweating profusely over much of your body, talk to your doctor about generalized hyperhidrosis.
Here are some frequently asked questions about excessive sweating:
Why do I sweat so much on my face?
While craniofacial hyperhidrosis could be the cause of excessive sweating facial sweating, it’s not the most common cause. Most of your face is covered in eccrine sweat glands. Because these are controlled by your nervous system, you might find that you sweat from your face more when you’re nervous, worried, or stressed.
Your diet may also affect the amount of sweat your face produces. If you eat a lot of hot, spicy foods, drink alcohol, or consume foods that are hard to digest, it could cause you to sweat more on your face.
Why do I sweat so much under my arms?
The apocrine glands in your armpits produce protein-filled sweat to rid your body of excess toxins. So if you’re sweating a lot in your underarm area, it could be caused by your diet. But you also may produce more armpit sweat when you workout or you’re too hot. A clinical-strength antiperspirant should help you keep the underarm sweat under control.
Keep in mind, if your armpits excessively sweat, it’s also a good idea to wear a strong deodorant — and you should know the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant. When the protein in the sweat mixes with the bacteria on your skin, it produces body odor. So while using a clinical-strength antiperspirant, such as SweatBlock towelettes, is a good idea, you need to use deodorant too.
Why do I sweat so much down there?
Sweating “down there” is just as normal as armpit sweat. It may be a bit more taboo to talk about, but everyone sweats in their groin area. The reasons you perspire in your groin area are the same reasons your armpits sweat. Your groin area has a high concentration of apocrine glands, so things like exercising, the temperature, your diet, and your hormones regulate the amount of groin-area sweat you produce.
To combat excessive sweating “down there,” consider using antiperspiarnt or a moisture absorbing powder. Applying a talc-free body powder or baking soda in the area after you shower to help absorb any excess moisture. Because apocrine glands secrete proteins, you can get odors “down there” when you sweat a lot.
Excessive amounts of hair trap sweat and odor, so keeping your hair trimmed “down there” can help to keep you clean and dry.
Tip: Groin, crotch and butt sweat don’t just cause unwanted moisture and foul odor, they also lead to painful chafing. Here’s a few tips to avoid thigh chafing.
Why do my hands sweat so much for no reason?
The sweat glands on your hands are controlled by your nervous system. That’s why your hands tend to sweat more when you’re nervous, excited, anxious, or stressed. Your emotions trigger these sweat glands to start working. So if you sweat a lot on your hands, you’re probably really prone to nervous sweating. It’s basically a fight-or-flight response.
Unfortunately, that means that you probably get clammy hands at the worst possible times, which can be totally embarrassing. (After all, it doesn’t get much worse than profusely sweating from your hands on a first date or when you’re meeting important people.)
Sweaty hands getting you down? Here are a few tips and remedies for sweaty hands that might help.
Why do I sweat more than I used to?
If you’re sweating more than you used to, it’s most likely caused by a change in your hormones. For example, teenagers sweat a lot more than kids. But once puberty ends, the excessive sweating usually ends too.
For women, things such as pregnancy, their menstrual cycle, and menopause can all cause excessive sweating. For example, when you’re pregnant, it increases your hormone levels, metabolism, and blood flow. All of these things can increase your internal body temperature, causing you to sweat more. Some women even experience excess sweating after pregnancy, as their body’s hormones readjust. The same type of thing happens when you’re in menopause or have your period.
Basically, more hormones = more sweat. Unfortunately, any medication you’re taking to keep your hormones in check — including birth control — can also cause you to sweat more.
If your diet has recently changed, it could also be the reason you’re sweating more than you used to. In this case, you might notice that you start sweating after eating — probably almost immediately. Consider adding more fruits and veggies to your diet and avoiding food that’s harder to digest — such as red meat. Alcohol and caffeine can also cause your body to produce more sweat, so try replacing alcoholic and caffeinated beverages with water. Drinking water regularly helps regulate your body temperature, which in turn, reduces the amount of sweat your body produces.
Are Medications Causing Excessive Sweating?
In some cases, the medications you take can cause excessive sweating. For the most part, the medications that cause people to sweat a lot are painkillers, depression medications, hormonal meds, and those for chronic heart failure. So if you’re taking any of these, and you noticed that your excessive sweating problems started after you began taking them, you might want to talk to your doctor to see if there’s an alternative medication that you could take — hopefully one that won’t make you sweat a lot. If you aren’t sure whether or not excessive sweating is a side effect of one of your medications, look for the term “diaphoresis.” This is the rather inconvenient term that basically means your medication may make you sweat like a pig in heat.
Does Diabetes Cause Excess Sweating?
Diabetes can cause you to sweat more than you normally would. If your sugar levels are elevated for too long, it can damage some of your nerves. If the nerves connected to your sweat glands are damaged, it can cause you to sweat more than normal. However, for many people with diabetes, the amount of excessive sweat they produce is more related to their weight. It’s common for people carrying around excess weight to develop diabetes. Unfortunately, carrying around a few extra pounds also means your body has to work more, which results in more sweat.
Once you know the reason for your excessive sweating, it’s a lot easier to find techniques, remedies and treatments that help you stop sweating so much.
Is embarrassing sweat getting in the way of life? We get it, that’s why we developed a handful of sweat-stopping products that can reduce unwanted sweat and restore confidence. Check them out here.
Article Updated July 10, 2019