Everything you ever wanted to know about sweating. Why, How, Whatever…

cold sweats

It sounds like an oxymoron, but breaking out in a case of the cold sweats is a real problem for many people. While normal sweating is part of the body’s normal cooling response, breaking out in a cold sweat is usually due to sudden fear or stress, which kicks in your body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response. While cold sweats by themselves aren’t usually a health risk, they can be a sign of more serious health issues.

Top 8 Causes of Cold Sweats

  • 1. General Anxiety
  • 2. Hypoglycemia
  • 3. Heart Attack
  • 4. Hormonal Changes
  • 5. Pain or Shock
  • 6. Infection
  • 7. Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal
  • 8. Medication Effects

People in the middle of a cold sweat often have clammy skin and report feeling cold; they may also seem unusually pale. Cold sweats can break out on your palms, armpits and even the soles of your feet.

What Causes Cold Sweats?

The medical term for sudden, excessive sweating is diaphoresis. This kind of sweat isn’t caused by heat or exertion. It’s set apart from regular sweating by what the person is doing when the sweating cranks up.

Under normal conditions, your body produces sweat in order to cool down your body temperature – typically in response to environmental factors like the temperature on a hot summer day or when exercising. But with cold sweats, your sweat glands are being abnormally activated by something other than heat or activity, such as your built-in stress response.

While the specific details are all over the map, most cold sweats can be traced back to our ancient fight or flight response, which readied our ancestors’ bodies to either battle it out with an enemy or get the heck out. The fight or flight response still makes us break out in cold sweats today, but it’s more likely to be triggered by a traffic jam or a big presentation rather than marauding invaders or wooly mammoths. When you’re in fight or flight mode, your heart rate speeds up, you start breathing more shallowly, your mouth goes dry and your sweat glands open up — and then start the sweat pouring. Since you’re usually not fighting for your life when this happens, it can be a little embarrassing.

Top 8 Causes of Cold Sweats

Depending on your unique physiology and stress response, cold sweats could be triggered by a variety of different things, but the following list represents some of the most common causes.

1. General Anxiety

A panic attack, generalized social anxiety, or other types of anxiety are some of the worst offenders for triggering a cold, clammy sweat. If this is something that happens to you, or you experience levels of anxiety that truly feel overwhelming, make sure to talk with your doctor about treatment options for the root cause of your cold sweats.

Cold sweats related to anxiety are often a result of the stress that your anxiety is putting on your body, which often keeps oxygen from getting to your brain and other vital organs. This kind of anxiety disorder can cause long-term health hazards and be extremely limiting to your quality of life, so it’s something you definitely want to talk with your doctor about.

2. Hypoglycemia

When someone’s blood sugar levels drop to well below normal, that can trigger a cold sweat. This is another serious health condition, especially for people with diabetes. When the blood sugar drops dramatically, your brain processes this change as a dangerous drop in oxygen and triggers the same response: cold sweats. Most of the time, drinking fruit juice or eating something with a small amount of natural sugar can help get the blood sugar back up to a healthier level.

3. Heart Attack

Sometimes people having a heart attack break out into a cold sweat – they also typically experience chest pain, intense pressure in the chest or upper body, shortness of breath, and have waxy, clammy skin. If you find yourself — or anyone else — with sudden chest discomfort, get medical attention immediately.

4. Hormonal Changes

Hormone levels can fluctuate, especially for people in menopause or perimenopause – this can sometimes lead to hot flashes, cold sweats, and even night sweats. The same happens during pregnancy and during puberty, for both boys and girls. In addition, thyroid disorders can lead to hormonal imbalances that can send your sweat glands for a loop. Along with sudden, uncontrollable hot flashes and cold sweats are one of the telltale signs of menopause.

5. Pain or Shock

When we suffer intense pain due to an accident or severe injury — or even a migraine — cold sweats are pretty common. If the profuse sweating comes with low blood pressure and a high heart rate, you might be dealing with a case of shock – and you should seek medical care immediately. When you’re suffering from shock, you’re getting dangerously low blood flow to your vital organs, including the brain.

If you’re offering first aid to someone who might be showing symptoms of shock, recognizing the cold sweat is an important clue, and you should get emergency medical help immediately. In the meantime, having the person lie flat on his back while elevating the feet can help. Ultimately, treating the injury itself and managing the symptoms associated with shock can bring the cold sweats under control.

6. Infection

Sometimes, if your body is fighting off an infection – especially something severe like tuberculosis or HIV – sweaty and cold, clammy skin can be a sign of your body’s response to that infection. An infection typically kicks your immune system into high alert, leading to a cold sweat. Any infection that spurs a fever can cause hot flushes and sweats, but tuberculosis is the infection most often associated with sweating at night. In addition, sepsis, the most severe type of infection, can often lead to shock, which usually brings with it a case of the cold sweats.

7. Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal

For anyone going through the process of stopping alcohol or drug use, there are often unpleasant side effects. One common side effect is breaking into a sudden cold sweat – and these symptoms can set in quickly, as fast as four to 12 hours after the last dose of drugs or alcohol, according to some estimates. The body’s response to a lack of neurochemicals is to trigger symptoms that sound a lot like a bad case of the flu-like excessive perspiring, confusion, insomnia, nausea, body aches, heart palpitations, and more.

8. Medication Effects

A wide collection of medications, including hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, powerful pain relievers, and steroids can sometimes cause people to break out in a cold sweat. Some you might be familiar with include albuterol, hydrocodone, insulin, and even naproxen sodium. If you suspect that your cold sweats are connected to a medication you’re taking, you should reach out to your doctor for a blood test to see if you can get your dosage or the medication itself adjusted.

Cold Sweats vs. Night Sweats: What’s the Difference?

The term night sweats refers specifically to a condition also known as sleep hyperhidrosis. It can leave your jammies drenched and your sheets in a puddle, but it’s unrelated to the core temperature of your body heating up while you sleep. Sometimes night sweats can be a sign of a serious medical condition, so if sweat is plaguing your dreams, you should definitely reach out to your doctor to discuss.

For example, sometimes obstructive sleep apnea (a narrowing of the throat walls, which restricts breathing during sleep) can cause cold sweats at night. In fact, those who suffer from sleep apnea are three times more likely than the general population to have cold sweats while sleeping. Sometimes night sweats also come along with GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease. In addition, some cancers, especially lymphoma and leukemia, trigger nightly cold sweats as an early sign of the disease.

Night sweats typically result in a layer of sweat over your entire body, while cold sweats are usually more localized – like on your palms, underarms, and feet.

Treatment Options

As it turns out, there’s no specific treatment for cold sweats. When it comes to relieving a cold sweat, your best bet is to try to address its root cause. If you break out in a cold sweat because of anxiety, for example, you may find relief with options like meditation and yoga that help reduce your stress. Your overall goal is to make sure you’re getting plenty of oxygen to your brain, which meditation and yoga both support by forcing you to focus on your breathing. Cognitive behavior therapy can also be extremely helpful in addressing the areas of your life that trigger the fight or flight reaction.

In addition, getting regular, daily exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help with how your body processes stress. In other words, the perspiration itself isn’t necessarily the problem – it may be an indicator of a deeper issue. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water.

While you’re working out your causes for cold sweats, you can do simple things to help with sudden cold sweats. Keep your skin clean and dry, shower regularly, and maybe even adjust your diet. Some foods and beverages, like caffeine, for example, can make people sweat more, so minimizing or removing them from your diet completely may help. You may want to avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and/or spicy foods if you notice excessive perspiration after eating or drinking them. It might not be fun to cut those from your diet, but it’s at least worth a shot if it can keep you from turning into a clammy puddle. You may need to talk to your doctor about adjusting medication or correcting hormone imbalances if you believe those are contributing to your frequent cold sweats.

It’s also a good idea to invest in an antiperspirant you can count on to help control your cold sweats and any odor they might bring with them. You can apply an antiperspirant at night before you go to sleep so that it has a chance to work all night.

Treating Your Cold Sweats

The cold sweats can be annoying, and also a little scary if you think they’re signaling a broader health issue. Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor if you find yourself breaking out into constant cold sweats without an obvious trigger.

Nearly everyone experiences cold sweats at some point in their lives, and there are several causes of cold sweats that are not emergency-related – like hormonal changes or day-to-day anxiety. If you have a serious, ongoing issue with cold sweats, talk to your doctor to make sure there isn’t a deeper issue going on that needs to be treated.

Sometimes your skin can act as an early detection system–warning you that something within your body is wrong. Such can be the case with sudden, excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin. When both symptoms occur together, it’s wise to take them seriously and put some effort into determining the cause.

15 Conditions That May Be the Underlying Cause of Your Pallor and Sweating

  • 1. Influenza
  • 2. Kidney Infections
  • 3. Anemia
  • 4. Heat Exhaustion
  • 5. Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal
  • 6. Cancer
  • 7. Chronic Infections
  • 8. Venomous or Severe Bites
  • 9. Arterial Blockage
  • 10. Diabetes
  • 11. Heart Conditions
  • 12. Hypoglycemia
  • 13. Thyroid Problems
  • 14. Anxiety
  • 15. Medications

Sometimes, heavy sweating and pallor appear together as a reaction or sensitivity to something as benign as an anxiety attack or feeling of panic. Even though these are serious and stressful emotional states, they don’t necessarily point to an underlying dangerous clinical health issue. In other situations, however, severe pallor and sweating are signs of a more serious medical condition.

What is Pallor?

The term “pallor” refers to the unnatural pale color of someone’s skin. If someone is paler than normal, that person can be described as having a pallor, or abnormal absence of color on the outer layer of the skin. Pallor can also include paleness inside the mouth, in the linings of the eyes, and on the surface of the tongue.

This kind of pale skin has nothing to do with the amount of melanin in it–this is more than simply a pale complexion. Instead, this kind of skin pallor is driven by the thickness and density of blood vessels that sit beneath the skin. Often caused by a lack of blood flow to the skin, pallor can mean that someone is seriously ill, especially if it is accompanied by sudden and inexplicable excessive sweating–also called diaphoresis or secondary generalized hyperhidrosis.

For people with naturally darker skin tones, skin pallor may only be detected by a clinical assessment of the mucous membranes. Pallor is usually most visible in the face and the palms of the hands. Depending on its root cause, pallor can develop gradually over time or appear quite suddenly. When a waxen pallor appears suddenly and unexpectedly, it may be a sign of a more significant health issue.

However, unless skin pallor also is accompanied by paleness of the tongue or inside of the mouth, pale lips, palms or lining of eyelids, it is likely not a serious condition that requires medical diagnosis and treatment.

Why Does Excessive Sweat Sometimes Accompany Pallor?

Quite often, very pale skin is bathed in a layer of cold and clammy sweat on the face, hands, or body. Under normal conditions, this is the body’s natural method of cooling down the body’s temperature by creating sweat that then evaporates on the surface of the skin. The system works best in response to high temperatures or physical exertion.

However, diaphoresis–which is the type of sweating that often accompanies extreme pallor–is a little different. It sets in suddenly and may seem inexplicable until you understand the root cause. In other words, it’s not a normal reaction to heat or physical exertion.

If pallor causes are related to an emotional stressor like anxiety or fear, it’s very common for pale skin color to come with some extra sweat. In addition, other underlying medical conditions, including some medications, can signal your sweat glands to kick into overdrive in tandem with facial pallor.

15 Conditions That May Be the Underlying Cause of Your Pallor and Sweating

Many different health issues can lead to skin pallor and sweating. Here are some of the most common underlying causes of pallor and sweating.

1. Influenza

Influenza is just one of many types of infections that can lead to a high fever. Common in adults and children, this illness is often accompanied by a pale face and clammy skin. Because influenza is caused by a virus, it must simply run its course, at which time the pale color and sweating should subside.

2. Kidney Infections

Depending on the cause of the infection, antibiotics may be of some help. If a bacterial infection can be cleared up with antibiotics, the associated pale skin and sheen of sweat should dissipate. Further complications can arise, however, when an infection leads to chronic kidney failure, which is associated with anemia, another cause of pale skin and clamminess.

3. Anemia

People diagnosed with anemia don’t produce enough red blood cells, and this condition is one of the most common causes of skin pallor. Because its root is a lack of red blood cells, anemia can lead to pale skin, dizziness, fatigue, headache, and more. This disease can develop suddenly and acutely or more slowly over time. Chronic anemia is the most common–with this condition, the body can’t sustain a sufficient hemoglobin level, which is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. When seeking a diagnosis, physicians will often examine the eyelid, as pallor of the inner eyelids is a sign of anemia.

4. Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is known to cause symptoms of pale, cool and moist skin, muscle cramps and abdominal pain, intense thirst, heavy sweating, and more. Once heat exhaustion is addressed, the facial pallor and sweating will likely subside.

5. Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal

Often, as a patient goes through the process of withdrawing from drug or alcohol use, the body responds with several symptoms, including sweating profusely and draining color from the skin.

6. Cancer

Some cancers, including colon cancer, renal cell cancer, and multiple myeloma, have been linked to skin pallor. At times, these conditions are also complicated by the fact that they are treated with powerful medications, which, on their own, can also lead to blanching of the skin and a cold, clammy sheen. In addition, at least one clinical study shows a connection between anemia pallor and cancer, whether naturally occurring or induced by the regimen of medications for cancer treatment.

7. Chronic Infections

As with other infections, the root cause of the illness is key. Viral infections will have to naturally run their course, while bacterial infections can be cleared up with antibiotics. Once the underlying infection is remedied, the symptomatic pallor and diaphoresis should cease.

8. Venomous or Severe Bites

Sometimes, an animal or insect bite can lead to symptoms of skin pallor and excessive sweating. This caused by the pain and shock, and the possible presence of venom. Some bites also carry with them the risk of anaphylaxis, which is an extreme allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

9. Arterial Blockage

A lack of blood circulation due to an arterial blockage often can cause localized pallor–usually in the arms or legs. The limb may also become cold and painful as a result of the lack of circulation.

10. Diabetes

This disease often puts people at higher risk of dangerously low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which not only causes pale skin but is also accompanied by profuse sweating.

11. Heart Conditions

Heart issues ranging from heart disease, heart infection, a heart attack, or heart failure can often lead to cold, clammy and pale skin. Such symptoms also can stem from structural abnormalities or damage of the heart, which can be confirmed through diagnostic tests. If pallor and sweating are accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea or pain in the back, neck, jaw or arm, you should contact emergency health care immediately.

12. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is known for causing symptoms ranging from clammy skin and anxiety to shakiness and irritability. It can be a dangerous condition, particularly among children, if not treated quickly and is often most associated with those who have diabetes. In addition, hypoglycemia is often a side effect of some medications used to treat diabetes.

13. Thyroid Problems

An overactive thyroid can also raise a person’s metabolism, which can lead to the excessive sweating that often accompanies thyroid-related skin pallor. In particular, a thyroid storm–a dangerously high thyroid hormone level–can cause racing heartbeat, sweating, pallor, and fever. A simple diagnostic test can let you know if your thyroid is causing your issues.

14. Anxiety

You may have heard the phrase, “pale as a ghost” to describe someone’s response to a fear-inducing event. Sometimes pallor can signal a reaction to extreme emotional changes–positive and negative. Anxiety can also lead to panic attacks, causing a sudden, intense fear that can’t be controlled. Panic attacks are extremely stressful, as they mimic serious physical health conditions–including causing pale, clammy skin and nervous sweating. Anxiety, however, can be effectively treated through both counseling and appropriate medication, which should cause accompanying symptoms to subside.

15. Medications

Your medication is often the most common cause of skin pallor and sudden sweating. If a medication causes a side effect, such as vomiting, skin pallor can follow. If you detect pale skin and diaphoresis and you know you’ve recently started a new medication, it’s worth talking with your primary care physician about your medicine. Medications that can cause sweating and pallor include painkillers, some cancer medications, blood pressure and heart medicines, and some gastrointestinal medications.

Skin Pallor and Sweating

The causes of skin pallor and sweating are many and varied – and the list presented here is not meant to be exhaustive. The bottom line is that if you are experiencing skin pallor and diaphoresis, especially if accompanied by other, more severe, symptoms like fainting, vomiting, fever or trouble breathing, you should talk with your primary care physician immediately. Your doctor likely will review your medical history and symptoms, give you a physical examination and test vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate. Depending on the amount of melanin in your skin, he or she may also check your inner eyelids. Your doctor may also order additional tests for clinical diagnosis – like a vitamin deficit scan, abdominal X-ray, extremity arteriography or complete blood count test.

Treatment may range from simple diet changes to taking iron supplements, starting a round of medications to treat an ongoing, underlying medical condition or even surgery. This last option is typically reserved for severe cases where someone has lost a large amount of blood – necessitating a blood transfusion be performed – or when an arterial blockage must be removed.

Ultimately, many causes of skin pallor and sudden, excessive sweating are highly treatable and non-life-threatening. But it’s key to understand an accurate clinical diagnosis about what is causing your skin pallor and diaphoresis. Various conditions, including infections, anxiety, hypoglycemia and more can be effectively managed through a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and behavioral therapy. When pale, clammy skin is the result of an emergency health issue, as long as medical and surgical treatment is administered early, it’s possible to make a full recovery from the underlying issue.

You wake up in the middle of the night drenched from head to toe in sweat. Your pajamas are soaked, and your sheets feel like they just came out of the washing machine. Has this ever happened to you? If so, then you’ve had night sweats. There are a number of reasons why you might be suffering from excessive sweating at night.

Top 16 Causes of Night Sweating

  • 1. Perimenopause and Menopause
  • 2. Diabetic or Nocturnal Hypoglycemia
  • 3. Hormone Disorders
  • 4. Hyperhidrosis
  • 5. Infections
  • 6. Cancer
  • 7. Antidepressants
  • 8. Medication
  • 9. Neurologic Disorders
  • 10. Hyperthyroidism
  • 11. Caffeine
  • 12. Tuberculosis
  • 13. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • 14. Anxiety Disorder
  • 15. Obesity
  • 16. Low Testosterone (Low-T) Levels in Men

Night Sweats : Common Causes

What causes night sweats?

It’s probably not what you think. They’re not brought on because you wore too many layers to bed or piled on too many blankets. They’re not because you have the thermostat turned up too high or slept too close to that romantic fire in the fireplace. Yes, these things can make you sweat during sleep and soak your sheets, but they’re not considered true night sweats.

True night sweats are repeated episodes of excessive sweating that make you feel like a mop in need of wringing out. They’re due to an underlying medical condition or disease. When the conditions that cause the nighttime profuse sweating are treated or overcome, the night sweats and hot flashes stop. Let’s examine the most common causes of night sweats in men and women.

1. Perimenopause and Menopause

The time in life when women begin to transition into middle age is called perimenopause (means “around menopause”) or menopause transition. This is when a woman’s ovaries begin producing less estrogen. It normally happens to women over 40 but can occur earlier. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and they stop having menstrual cycles. Night sweats and hot flashes are among the most common symptoms. Other symptoms include nausea, weight gain, and tenderness of the breasts. Once a woman moves from perimenopause to full-blown menopause, the symptoms can increase in number and severity. The average age for the onset of menopause in the United States is 51.

Night sweats are a common occurrence in menopausal women. This happens because of hormonal changes affecting estrogen and progesterone levels. These hormones affect the body’s temperature control system. When they’re out-of-whack, like during menopause, get ready for the night sweats.

Certain lifestyle practices may help reduce night sweats due to menopause. Avoid these hot flash and night sweating triggers:

  • Smoking– including secondhand smoke
  • Tight or restrictive clothing
  • Too many blankets or sheets on your bed
  • Drinking alcoholic or caffeinated drinks
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Overly warm environments
  • Too much stress

When sleeping, you can try these remedies reduce menopause night sweats:

  • Lower the room’s temperature
  • Turn on a fan
  • Remove blankets or sheets
  • Wear light sleep apparel
  • Try cooling gels, sprays or essential oils
  • Have a few sips of cool water
  • Relax
  • Try plant-based supplements that claim to relieve or reduce night sweats

The only sure-fire cure is to grow a little older and move out of the menopausal stage of life. Not very comforting, but in this case, time is a highly effective cure.

2. Diabetic or Nocturnal Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a common condition among people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2). It happens when the level of sugar in the blood drops too low to maintain normal body functioning. This is thought to be 70 milligrams or lower per deciliter.

Nocturnal hypoglycemia is when blood sugar levels fall to dangerous levels during sleep. Most common in diabetes sufferers, it can happen when too little food is eaten after the nighttime dose of insulin or if too much insulin is taken before sleeping.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia while sleeping are:

  • Night sweats
  • Restless sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares or vivid dreams
  • Morning headache
  • Convulsions

While less common, hypoglycemia can also happen in people who don’t have diabetes. Non-diabetic hypoglycemia can occur if your body is unable to stabilize blood sugar levels or if your body produces a little too much insulin after a meal. Night sweating is also a symptom of non-diabetic hypoglycemia.

The treatments for hypoglycemia depend upon the cause. The initial approach for any type of hypoglycemia is eating a fast-acting carbohydrate, sugary food or fruit juice. Foods containing fat or protein are not good choices because they affect the way the body absorbs sugar.

Diabetics regulate glucose levels through doses of insulin and frequent checking of glucose levels. If you’re not diabetic, there may be another underlying cause for your hypoglycemia. Visit with your primary care physician for help in diagnosing another illness that may be responsible for causing hypoglycemic night sweats.

3. Hormone Disorders

Hormonal disorders or imbalances occur whenever there is an overabundance or deficiency of a hormone in the bloodstream. Because of the power of hormones and the essential roles they play in the proper functioning of our bodies, even a small imbalance can cause unpleasant or even dangerous symptoms. A common symptom is night sweats.

Hormones are chemical compounds produced by glands in our endocrine systems. They move throughout the body via the blood to deliver messages and instructions to our organs. They regulate many of the body’s vital functions. These include insulin, steroids, growth hormones, adrenaline, and many more.

Everybody will experience hormonal imbalances. Men and women will have them when going through puberty or growth spurts. Women go through menopause. Men experience testosterone level changes. The causes of hormonal imbalances range from medical disorders to obesity and dietary issues. Allergies and physical injury can also cause hormonal problems.

Effective treatments are dependent upon the cause. Make an appointment with your primary care physician to get started on diagnosing the cause and best treatment for your hormonal imbalance. Your doctor can offer a hormone therapy tailored to your situation.

4. Hyperhidrosis

Night sweats are often caused by hyperhidrosis, a condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable sweating for no apparent reason. It’s a disorder that affects about 15 million people in the United States. Its cause is not well understood but is thought to be hereditary. While there is no cure, there are a number of effective treatments.

In this instance, when excessive sweating happens in the night, it’s not because you’ve stacked on too many blankets or you’re wearing the latest in thermal underwear. It’s not even because you’re having a bad drug side effect or even an imbalance of hormones. It’s because your sweat glands are being triggered into hyperactivity by your nervous system.

Sufferers of hyperhidrosis not only experience night sweats, but also profuse sweating during the day. Their lives are profoundly affected by excessive sweating in every situation and setting, even while completely rested and relaxed in sleep.

There are dozens of treatments for hyperhidrosis. Some are simple, easy, and inexpensive while others can be invasive, expensive, and painful. One of the best and most frequently used is a prescription strength antiperspirant like SweatBlock. These contain an aluminum chloride ingredient that effectively blocks sweat glands from secreting sweat by forming a gel-like plug. A single application can last up to 7 days. SweatBlock products are proven safe, effective, and life-altering.

5. Infections

Infections are a well-known cause of night sweats. The most common infection linked to night sweats is tuberculosis. HIV infections are also frequently accompanied by night sweats. Other infections associated with night sweats are endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves), osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bones) and abscesses. Night sweats caused by an infection are alleviated by treating the underlying infection.

6. Cancer

Cancer is one of the other causes of night sweats. Sweating at night is an early symptom of multiple forms of cancer. The most prevalent type of cancer associated with night sweats is lymphoma. Lymphoma is cancer that begins in the lymphocytes, the immune system cells that fight infections. People who have undiagnosed cancer often exhibit other symptoms, like unexplained weight loss and frequent fever. The treatment for night sweats caused by cancer is the treatment of the cancer itself.

7. Antidepressants

Night sweats can result from taking antidepressants. Studies have shown that up to 22% of men and women taking antidepressants experience night sweats as a side effect. This kind of sweating is called secondary hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating caused by a secondary and unrelated medical problem. Two antidepressants, sertraline and venlafaxine, are notably linked to nights sweats. The good news is that if antidepressants are causing night sweats or other negative side effects, they can be managed and even reversed.

As reported by the International Hyperhidrosis Society, Dr. Jonathan Scarff found that an anticholinergic medicine called benztropine reduced or eliminated antidepressant sweating. If you take an antidepressant and you’re suffering from night sweats, talk to your doctor about finding a therapy that can help you get a good night’s sleep without sweating.

8. Medication

In addition to antidepressants, there are over 100 medications that can cause night sweats. These types of medications include:

  • Analgesics (pain medication)
  • Antimicrobials (antibiotics and antivirals)
  • Asthma Inhalers
  • Cardiovascular (heart and blood pressure) medication
  • Chemotherapeutic (Oncological/cancer) medicine
  • Diabetes medication
  • Endocrine (hormonal) medication
  • Gatrointestinal (stomach and GI track) medicine
  • Head and neck medicine
  • Hematologic/Immunologic/Immunosuppressant medication
  • Neuropsychiatric medication
  • Ophthalmologic (eye) medicine
  • Pulmonary (lung) medication
  • Urologic medication

What can you do if a medication you are taking causes excessive sweating at night? Your options include reducing the dose, finding a substitute drug, or discontinuing the medications altogether. Don’t do any of these things without first consulting your doctor.

While night sweating is a known side effect of many of the medicines in the above categories, most will cause night sweats in a very small percentage of users. Medicines that are most likely to cause night sweats in 50% or more of those taking them are listed below:

  • Zinc supplements (Cold-Eeze, Galzin, Orazinc, Zincate) for the head and neck
  • Desipramine (Norpramin) A neuropsychiatric drug
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor) A neuropsychiatric drug
  • Please note: The above lists are not intended to be all-inclusive.

9. Neurologic Disorders

Another rare cause of night sweats in men and women is a neurological disorder. Some of these disorders are dysreflexia, post-traumatic syringomyelia, stroke, and autonomic neuropathy. If you’re experiencing night sweats and you’ve been diagnosed with one of these disorders, it’s likely to be the cause.

10. Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland is two inches long, shaped roughly like a butterfly, and located in the front area of your neck. It produces hormones that control and regulate the body’s metabolic rate, heart, muscles, digestive functions, development of the brain and bone maintenance. The thyroid even helps regulate cholesterol levels. It’s an essential part of the endocrine system.

If your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, the overproduction of the hormone creates a condition known as hyperthyroidism. An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disorder. Hyperthyroidism most common occurs most commonly in women over 35.

One of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism is excessive sweating, especially at night. An underproduction of thyroid hormones can also cause night sweats. Treatments for hyperthyroidism range from taking radioactive iodine or other antithyroid medicines by mouth to invasive thyroid surgery. Successfully treating the thyroid will stop this cause of night sweats.

11. Caffeine

Here’s some bad news for people, especially women, who drink coffee, tea and/or caffeinated sodas. Caffeinated drinks might be causing those troublesome hot flashes and night sweats. Researchers have discovered a link between caffeine consumption, hot flashes, and night sweats in women.

According to well-known obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Julia Schlam Edelman:

“Coffee is an especially common trigger of night sweats, and it’s a beverage that is more popular than ever. The number of specialty coffee shops is multiplying, and the coffee cups are getting larger — an extra-large Dunkin’ Donuts cup of hot coffee is 24 ounces; a “Venti” at Starbucks is 20 ounces. The more coffee you drink, the longer it takes to eliminate the caffeine from your body. Half the caffeine in a cup of coffee consumed by a healthy, non-pregnant adult is eliminated in six hours. If you drink a large cup of coffee (which may have 200 milligrams of caffeine) at 4:00 p.m., 100 milligrams of caffeine will be eliminated from your body by 10:00 p.m., leaving another 100 milligrams in your body that evening. This will disrupt your normal sleep pattern and promote night sweats.”

If you’re having hot flashes or night sweats and you’re consuming lots of coffee or tea, you’ll probably want to significantly reduce your caffeine habit. It probably doesn’t matter what temperature your caffeine is, so large servings of Coke, Pepsi or Dr. Pepper (among many others) can have the same effect.

12. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs, though it can affect other organs as well. The infection is spread when a person inhales tiny droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. TB can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages, and you could have TB and not know it. An infected person can be afflicted with tuberculosis for weeks before they begin to feel sick or experience symptoms.

In addition to the lungs, TB also affects the lymph nodes. A lymph node (lymph gland) is a small gland about the size and shape of a bean. Lymph nodes are an important component of the body’s immune system. They contain lymphocytes (white blood cells) that enable the body to fight disease and infection. They act as filters, trapping bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing substances before they can infect other regions of the body. Lymph nodes are connected to each other by a network of lymph vessels. Lymph nodes are found in groups and concentrations of lymph nodes are located in the neck, underarms, chest, groin and the abdomen area.

Symptoms of TB, while sometimes difficult to detect, usually include swollen glands and night sweats. Other common tuberculosis symptoms are fatigue, weight loss, and chronic fever. Tuberculosis can be treated with antibiotics, though particularly virulent and drug-resistant strains require prolonged treatment with a cocktail of several medications.

13. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat narrows, restricting breathing while sleeping. During sleep, breathing dangerously stops and starts repeatedly. Many people suffer from sleep apnea without knowing it. Loud snoring is one of the main symptoms. Those who suffer from untreated sleep apnea are three times more likely to have night sweats than others.

Sleep apnea is treated by wearing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device during sleep. The device sends a gentle current of pressurized air into the throat keeping it open.

14. Anxiety Disorder

Feeling anxious from time to time is something we all experience. We become especially anxious when faced with a difficult problem, taking an exam, preparing for a job interview or even before a first date. Anxiety disorder is something altogether different.

Anxiety disorders are classified as mental illnesses and interfere with everyday living. People with an anxiety disorder live in constant fear, worry and even dread. Just leaving the house can bring on an episode and leave them paralyzed. When your nervous system becomes hyperstimulated because of stress, the body can respond erratically causing dysfunctions like sweating profusely during sleep.

Sweating while sleeping is a predominant symptom of anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Night sweats caused by anxiety can occur infrequently or every night. They can come and go with no real pattern, ranging from slight to severe. You could wake up with just a little sweat on your brow or be completely soaked from head to toe.

Night sweats due to anxiety will stop when the stress stops. If you think you might be suffering from night sweats due to anxiety disorder, make an appointment with your doctor to explore ways to treat your anxiety.

15. Obesity

Obesity by itself can lead to night sweats. BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure of a person’s weight in relationship to height and measures total body fat in adults. A BMI score of 26 to 27 would be considered overweight and can lead to moderate health risks. It’s estimated that 20% of Americans are classified as overweight.

A BMI score of 30 or higher is considered obese. Night sweats are a common result of obesity. Body fat acts as insulation and will keep heat in. More heat means more hot flashes and night sweats. In women, obesity can increase the severity of menopause symptoms.

The treatment is not complicated nor is it simple. Losing weight will stop hot flashes and night sweats caused by obesity.

16. Low Testosterone (Low-T) Levels in Men

We’ve explored several causes of night sweats and hot flashes in women, now it’s time to talk about night sweats in men. While women go through menopause, the change in estrogen levels can cause night sweats. Men, on the other hand, don’t normally experience dramatic drops in testosterone, but when low testosterone does occur, it can have a similar impact.

Doctors and scientists don’t know why a drop in testosterone levels causes hot flashes and night sweats. There is speculation that the hypothalamus, the region of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature, is the guilty organ. When operating normally, the hypothalamus signals blood vessels to dilate when the body becomes overheated. The increased blood flow causes a man’s face to become flushed. To deal with the elevated temperature, sweat glands are activated. Sweating is, of course, the body’s way of regulating its temperature.

Low-T may somehow cause the hypothalamus to “jump the gun” and cause unwelcome and profuse sweating during sleep by triggering the 2 to 4 million sweat glands in your body. Hormone replacement therapy may provide relief but can also increase the chance of prostate cancer. For men who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, hormone replacement therapy is not an option.

Low-T is not the only condition that can cause night sweats in men. If you’re experiencing night sweats, be sure to see your doctor.

Treating Your Night Sweats

Night sweats are not uncommon and affect an estimated 3 percent of the population. Although most cases of night sweating are not caused by life-threatening conditions, you should always talk with a qualified physician to determine the cause. Cancer, tuberculosis and other serious diseases could be the underlying causes.

There are effective treatments that can alleviate or significantly reduce night sweats in men and women. These treatments include oral medication, changing your diet, or using a clinical-strength antiperspirant like SweatBlock. Take advantage of the tried and true remedies so that you don’t have to “sweat it” when you go to sleep.

Are you sweating profusely for no apparent reason? Is it the kind of sweating that can’t be explained by exercise or external temperature– or even unusual stress?

The cause of your excessive sweating may be diaphoresis.

In this article we’ll explore the following topics surrounding diaphoresis…

  • What is Diaphoresis?
  • What Causes Diaphoresis?
  • What Medications Can Cause Diaphoresis?
  • How is Diaphoresis Different than Hyperhidrosis?
  • When Should I Get Medical Help or Talk to My Doctor?
  • What are the Treatment Options for Diaphoresis?

Why do we sweat? Sweating is the natural way the body manages and regulates its temperature. When functioning normally, your body perspires when you’re engaged in exertion or physical exercise, exposed to external heat, and even when you’re feeling unusual mental or emotional stress.

When you perspire, your brain signals the millions of sweat glands located all over your body (except ear canals, lips, and genitals) to secret moisture composed mostly of water and electrolytes. Once this sweat reaches the surface of the skin, it evaporates. The evaporation of your sweat dissipates heat which in turn cools the body.

If unusual and excessive sweating occurs for no apparent reason, then something else is going on. It may be primary hyperhidrosis (more about that later) or diaphoresis. It’s important to understand the difference to know exactly what’s happening with your body.


What is Diaphoresis?

Diaphoresis is excessive sweating caused by one or more secondary (meaning separate and not related) medical conditions. It can also be a side effect of certain medications. Diaphoresis is not a problem of a malfunctioning nervous system or overactive sweat glands, and treating it successfully usually requires medical attention to discover the specific cause.

Diaphoresis is also known as secondary hyperhidrosis because it is a symptom of a secondary disorder. Once the cause is identified and properly treated, the excessive sweating stops.

What Causes Diaphoresis?

There are dozens of diseases and medical conditions that can cause diaphoresis. Some of the most common causes are:


A majority of women (85% or more) experience periods of increased sweating, night sweats, and hot flashes during menopause. As a woman transitions from fertility to infertility, fluctuating hormones send false signals to the brain that the body is overheating. This results in excessive perspiration and night sweats. Once the menopausal change progresses, the bouts of profuse sweating and night sweats usually cease. Some women find relief through hormone therapy for a short time.


Obesity can cause diaphoresis in both men and women. Defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, obesity is very common in the United States and affects one-third of all adults. Losing sufficient weight almost always causes the excessive sweating to stop.


For people with diabetes, sweating profusely is an early symptom of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Critically low blood sugar is a result of either too much insulin or too little sugar. This causes the body to lapse into a fight-or-flight state, releasing hormones that increase sweating. Proper management of diabetes significantly reduces the occurrence of diaphoresis.

Parkinson’s Disease

Coping with Parkinson’s disease is very difficult, but when you add excessive sweating to the equation it becomes even worse. Parkinson’s disease affects the autonomic nervous system, causing the body to lose its ability to properly regulate many body functions. Changes in the sweat glands often occur and can cause Parkinson’s sufferers to sweat uncontrollably.


Increased hormone levels (some may say raging hormones) in a woman’s body during pregnancy can cause heavy perspiration. As a pregnant woman’s metabolism speeds up, her body temperature rises, which can cause abnormal sweating. The extra weight gained during pregnancy may also increase the likelihood of diaphoresis. Fortunately, it’s only a 9-month-long condition, then the sweat glands return to normal.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s joints, causing swelling, pain, and stiffness. A common symptom of this disorder is excessive sweating.


Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland shifts into hyperactivity, producing too much of the hormone thyroxine. The overabundance of thyroxine speeds up the body’s metabolism and causes heavy sweating (among a number of other symptoms).

Heart Attack

A heart attack, aka myocardial infarction, happens when a portion of your heart muscle becomes damaged or dies. Symptoms include heavy sweating, faintness, chest pain, pain in one or both arms, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and a pale or ashen colored face.


Diaphoresis is linked to several types of cancer. Among them are lymphoma, leukemia, bone cancer, liver cancer, testicular cancer, as well as carcinoid tumors.


Anaphylaxis is an intense and acute allergic reaction. One of the first signs of an anaphylaxis reaction is an instant onset of heavy and profuse sweating. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that requires immediate attention and treatment.

Alcohol and Drug Withdrawal

Profuse sweating often occurs when those addicted to alcohol or drugs go through withdrawal. Going “cold turkey” not only leads to excessive sweating but also includes other reactions that can be temporarily life-threatening.


Diaphoresis (secondary hyperhidrosis) can also be caused by gout. Gout is a common form of arthritis that develops from high levels of uric acid in the blood. It can strike anyone. In addition to excessive sweating, other symptoms of gout include sudden swelling and joint pain, usually in the big toe.

What Medications Can Cause Diaphoresis?

There are hundreds of medicines that have been known to cause excessive sweating. The most common medicines that can cause diaphoresis include:


All varieties and classes of antidepressants may cause diaphoresis. Antidepressants increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin affects the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that regulates the body’s core temperature.

Migraine Medication

Medicine for migraines can cause excessive sweating if they contain triptan– such as sumatriptan, rizatriptan, frovatriptan and eletriptan. These substances also increase serotonin levels.

Pain Relievers

Aspirin or ibuprofen are known to cause excessive sweating. The over-the-counter pain medicines reduce a fever by dilating blood vessels, causing heat to be dissipated through the skin. Opioids may also cause heavy sweating.

Diabetes Medication

Insulin, glyburide, glipizide, pioglitazone, and other diabetes medication are known to cause diaphoresis. Heavy sweating can occur as the body adjusts to altered blood sugar levels.

Asthma Inhalers

Certain asthma inhalers which contain beta-agonist drugs may trigger excessive sweating. Albuterol and levalbuterol directly stimulate sweat glands to produce more sweat.

Heartburn Medication

Heartburn and reflux medicines like Prilosec and Prevacid are known to cause sweating as a side effect.

Sildenafil (Viagra)

Viagra, known as sildenafil in its generic form, may also cause diaphoresis. The drug dilates blood vessels to heighten blood flow, which can cause flushing and spontaneous sweating.


Also known as Requip, this medication is commonly prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome and Parkinson’s disease. It activates dopamine receptors which can lead to profuse sweating.

Breast Cancer Medication

Excessive sweating can be a side effect of certain breast cancer medications, such as anastrozole, exemestane, letrozole, and tamoxifen. These drugs are anti-estrogen compounds designed to prevent breast cancer from recurring.


Luprolide, known commercially as the brand name Lupron, is a drug prescribed to treat endometriosis and prostate cancer. It lowers hormone levels in both men and women and can lead to heavy sweating and night sweats.

How is Diaphoresis Different than Hyperhidrosis?

There are two types of hyperhidrosis– primary hyperhidrosis (also called focal hyperhidrosis) and secondary hyperhidrosis (sometimes called generalized hyperhidrosis).

Diaphoresis and secondary hyperhidrosis are synonymous they are different medical terms for the same condition. But diaphoresis is different from primary (focal) hyperhidrosis. Let’s explore how diaphoresis is like secondary hyperhidrosis but different from primary hyperhidrosis.

Primary or focal hyperhidrosis is a serious medical disorder that is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable sweating not related to heat or exercise. Recent research indicates that it affects about 5% or the world’s population. It can be focused on the underarms (axillary hyperhidrosis), the hands or palms (palmar hyperhidrosis), the feet (plantar hyperhidrosis) or the head and face (craniofacial hyperhidrosis).

What causes primary hyperhidrosis is unknown, but it is thought to be hereditary. The nervous system triggers localized sweat glands, known as eccrine glands, into hyperactivity for no apparent reason and without external stimuli such as elevated body temperature and exertion. This extreme perspiration can negatively affect the physical, emotional, mental and social aspects of life. There is no cure. However, there are numerous effective treatments that can reduce or eliminate the excessive sweating due to primary hyperhidrosis.

The cause of secondary hyperhidrosis, or diaphoresis, is something else entirely. While the symptoms of diaphoresis and primary hyperhidrosis are identical– profuse, uncontrollable sweating– diaphoresis is caused by a secondary or underlying cause not related to over-active sweat glands. The possible causes include the disorders and medications identified above as well as dozens of other less common ones. Unlike primary hyperhidrosis, once the underlying disorder is successfully treated, the excessive sweating usually stops.

When Should I Get Medical Help or Talk to My Doctor?

It’s normal to sweat when you work out, become hot, or find yourself in a nervous or anxious situation such as a job interview, important presentation, or on a first date. Nervous sweating is also normal, though darn inconvenient at times. But you should become concerned if you find yourself frequently soaking through your shirts or socks, or trying to hide your perpetually wet, clammy hands. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but thankfully your excessive sweating can be treated. Don’t suffer in silence out of shyness or shame. Start by seeing your primary care doctor. He or she can refer you to a specialist if necessary.

What are the Treatment Options for Diaphoresis?

The best and most effective treatment of diaphoresis is to treat the underlying disease or disorder that is triggering the profuse sweating.

In the meantime, here are some remedies that may help reduce your excessive sweating. When it comes to some of these natural and home remedies, your mileage may vary. The International Hyperhidrosis Society has concluded there is “little research to recommend such natural remedies, but this does not discount their potential.”

Natural Remedies for Treating Diaphoresis


Camphor was once made by distilling wood from the camphor tree. Today it is synthesized chemically. It’s used in such products as Vicks VapoRub. Dissolve a small portion of camphor or some camphor oil in some fractionated coconut oil. Apply the mixture to affected areas and leave it on the skin for 40 to 60 minutes. Then wash the area gently with cool, clean water. Camphor can also be added to bath water to help reduce sweating.


When applied directly to your skin, vinegar acts as an astringent that eliminates many bacteria and will also close up pores. Use a cotton ball to dab a little apple cider vinegar on the desired areas overnight. Simply wash it off when you shower or bathe in the morning.

Tomato Juice

A glass of tomato juice or a tomato-rich diet can help control profuse sweating by regulating your internal body temperature.

Green and Black Tea

Green tea contains magnesium and vitamin B. These act as astringents and constrict sweat glands. A cup of green tea in the morning may help reduce sweating. Black tea is also an astringent. Brew one or two black tea bags, allowing the tea to steep for 10 minutes. Apply the tea directly to your underarms with a clean washcloth.

Essential Oils

Those who prefer natural remedies often recommend essential oils as a remedy for excessive sweating. If you want to try essential oils, you should thoroughly study the potential benefits and hazards of each beforehand.

Here are 3 of the most popular essential oils for controlling sweat:

  • Sage oil has long been used to ease the symptoms of menopause.
  • Cistus oil is an astringent that can shrink pores.
  • Clary Sage oil contains linalyl acetate which has calming properties.

Other Effective Remedies

There are several effective remedies for primary hyperhidrosis. However, because of their permanence, expense, or invasiveness, they likely wouldn’t be appropriate for treating diaphoresis. It’s important to remember that curing diaphoresis means identifying and successfully treating the underlying, unrelated disease or disorder that triggers the excessive sweating.

Short of overcoming the disorder that’s responsible for diaphoresis, here are two remedies that can treat the profuse sweating without permanently altering, removing or destroying sweat glands:

Clinical-Strength or Prescription-Strength Antiperspirants

These powerful antiperspirant products, like SweatBlock, are different than the antiperspirants you find on the shelves of your local grocery or drug store. They contain higher concentrations of the aluminum chloride, a compound that temporarily blocks the sweat glands from secreting sweat. When aluminum chloride comes in contact with water (your sweat), it forms a gel-like plug that blocks sweat from reaching the surface of the skin. A single application of a prescription strength antiperspirant may last up to a week before it must be reapplied.

Botox Injections

Botox is a natural, purified protein that can temporarily impede the chemical that “turns on” the body’s sweat glands. It blocks the nerves that cause sweating. Botox injections are shallow and the medicine is injected just below the surface of the skin. The desired effects will last 6 to 12 months before the treatment must be repeated. While effective, this treatment is very expensive and can be painful.

A Final Note

Diaphoresis, by definition, is always caused by another illness or medication. The best treatment is always to identify and appropriately treat the underlying condition. Once that happens, the excessive sweating almost always stops. If treatment for the secondary cause is not possible or requires a prolonged period to take effect, there are treatments and remedies that can help in the meantime. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and available treatment options.

Do you suffer from excessive sweating?

Hyperhidrosis, the official medical term for profuse sweating, affects millions here in the USA and around the world.

Antiperspirants with aluminum chloride are the first line of defense against extreme sweating. There’s a lot of information floating around about antiperspirants and aluminum. For your convenience, we’ve compiled the most important stuff for your quick reference.

6 Things You Should Know About Aluminum Chloride

  • What is aluminum chloride?
  • How does aluminum chloride stop sweating?
  • Is aluminum chloride safe? False claims debunked
  • What are the side effects of aluminum chloride and how to minimize them?
  • Other forms of aluminum used in antiperspirants
  • Discovery and history of aluminum chloride

aluminum chloride facts

What is aluminum chloride?

(Read on with caution – scientific terms to follow)

The chemical formula for aluminum chloride is AICI3. As its name implies, it is a chemical compound of aluminum and chlorine. For you chemistry buffs, AICI3 has three electrons in its valence shell. It forms a covalent compound with chlorine. It doesn’t form an octet by combining with chlorine, so it can take 2 more electrons. This makes it a Lewis Acid (Lewis acid is a compound that can take an electron from a donor compound.) Whew!

The molar mass of aluminum chloride is 133.34 g/mole. (What the heck is a mole?) A mole is a unit of measurement used by chemists. It indicates the number of atoms, ions, molecules, etc., in a given chemical sample. Fun fact: Aluminum chloride can exist as a solid, liquid or gas.

Aluminum chloride is classified as an aluminum salt. It is found naturally in rocks that were formed as the earth was born. It can also be synthesized. As a solid, it is a coarse white powder. Often it is found contaminated with iron which gives it a yellow color. Aluminum chloride has a low melting point, and a low boiling point as well. It is highly reactive when it comes into contact with water. It has a strong, sharp odor, and can’t burn or catch on fire.

The uses of aluminum chloride are varied and include the production of pure aluminum metal. Large amounts are also produced for use in other industries too. It is used in the making of paint, synthetic rubber and in making petrochemicals. Aluminum chloride is found in nail strengtheners and air fresheners, and it can also treat wastewater. It has a lot of uses!

Most importantly, aluminum chloride is used to make antiperspirants, which offers the greatest benefit of all — it helps stop excessive sweating. By the way, if you’re looking for a strong antiperspirant, this one works pretty good 😉

How does aluminum chloride stop sweating?

There are two types of sweat glands found in your body, apocrine and eccrine. The eccrine sweat glands are far more numerous. They’re responsible for most of the sweat your body produces.

When an antiperspirant like SweatBlock is applied to the underarms (or other areas of the body), aluminum ions are absorbed. Dr. Eric Hanson of the University of North Carolina’s Department of Dermatology says, “The aluminum ions are taken into the cells that line the eccrine-gland ducts as the opening of the epidermis, the top layer of the skin.”

Dr. Louis Kuchnir, a physical chemist who practices in Marlborough, Massachusetts, describes the process in more detail. He explains that an aluminum chloride molecule can bind six water molecules. It can also tightly bind additional layers of 12-20 water molecules, “making the water very viscous such that the weak muscles that push sweat out of our sweat glands are unable to move the sweat to the surface of our skin,” he says.

Dr. Kuchnir continues, “When aluminum chloride gets close to water, it soaks it up and thickens it. By spreading it over the areas that perspire, it thickens the water in the top of the duct where the sweat’s coming out, and that thickening, like a gel, will block it.”

In layman’s terms, aluminum chloride and other aluminum compounds react to sweat. The resulting reaction forms a gel-like plug that blocks sweat from reaching the skin’s surface.

There you have it. That’s how antiperspirants with aluminum chloride work. Isn’t medical science amazing?

Is aluminum chloride safe? False claims debunked

You may have read something somewhere or heard rumors asserting that aluminium chloride is not safe. Some deeply flawed studies have linked its use to breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even kidney disease.

So, what’s the truth?

The International Hyperhidrosis Society notes that aluminum chloride has been safely used for over 80 years and has proven to be effective and non-toxic.

Let’s briefly consider one of the most persistent rumors: Aluminum chloride in antiperspirants causes breast cancer. This is simply not true.

The authors of these now discredited studies asserted that the chemicals in antiperspirants, including aluminum chloride, are absorbed through the skin in the underarms. They claimed the chemicals then interact with DNA creating malignant mutations.

Because most breast cancers begin in the upper and outer portion of the breast, the region closest to the armpit where antiperspirants are used, they assumed antiperspirants must be responsible for some breast cancers.

Not so!

“Why you would think that antiperspirant would somehow go upstream and get into your lymph nodes and then somehow get into the breast is unclear,” states Dr. Timothy J. Moynihan. Dr. Moynihan, an oncologist, serves as the Education Chair and consultant for the Division of Medical Oncology at the Mayo Clinic. “It doesn’t make sense other than the fact that it’s in the neighborhood.”

Any claims that aluminum chloride in antiperspirants can also be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease and kidney disease have been similarly disproven. “These products can be used with high confidence of their safety. They’ve been used for many years, and there’s no evidence that suggests a problem,” states John Bailey, Ph.D., Chief Scientist with the Personal Care Products Council.

There’s much more reliable information available regarding the safety of aluminum chloride.

What are the side effects of aluminum chloride and how to minimize them?

The possible side effects of aluminum chloride are mild. The most commonly reported side effects are itching or a mild burning immediately after application. Tingling or a prickly sensation are also common side effects. These are short-lived and normally disappear shortly after application. If skin irritation persists you should talk to your doctor.

The possibility of itching, burning or tingling or other skin irritation due to aluminum chloride in deodorants or antiperspirants can be minimized by observing these precautions:

  • Wait 24 to 48 hours after shaving before applying.
  • Never apply an aluminum chloride antiperspirant to broken or infected skin.
  • Let your underarms or other areas where antiperspirant has been applied to completely air dry before putting on your clothing.

For people with extremely sensitive skin, aluminum chloride antiperspirants or antiperspirant deodorants may not be a viable solution.

Other forms of aluminum used in antiperspirants

While aluminum chloride is the most common aluminum compound used in today’s antiperspirants, there are other forms of aluminum that are also used to reduce sweating and treat hyperhidrosis. They are:

  • Aluminum Chlorohydrate (also known as Aluminium Chlorohydrate).
  • Aluminum Zirconium Tricholorohydrex Glycine
  • Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate
  • Aluminum Hydroxybromid

All of these aluminum salts work in the same fashion as aluminum chloride. However, not all forms of Aluminum are created equal. Some forms are stronger than others and may have longer lasting results. For example, an antiperspirant with 10% aluminum chloride is not the same as an antiperspirant with 10% aluminum zirconium.

Discovery and history of aluminum chloride

Aluminum chloride was discovered in 1825 by Hans Christian Oersted, a distinguished Danish physicist and chemist. It is one of the oldest chemicals used in organic chemistry.

Aluminum salts were marketed as an antiperspirant as early as 1903 in a product named Everdry. Another notable and popular brand was Odo-ro-no, invented by a Cincinnati surgeon who suffered from sweaty hands. His daughter promoted Odo-ro-no throughout the country. Her company embarked upon an aggressive marketing campaign in 1919 featuring ads highlighting “a subject too often avoided.” That subject was the foul-smelling underarms of women. The popularity of Odo-ro-no skyrocketed and sales doubled almost overnight.

Three years previous to the debut of Odo-ro-no, an Illinois dermatologist, Arthur W. Stillians, published a cure for profuse sweating. Dr. Stillians observes, “the knowledge that an unpleasant odor clings to one makes the sensitive person dread to meet others.” Those who suffer from hyperhidrosis will confirm Dr. Stillian’s statement. Hyperhidrosis messes up the lives of those who have it— emotionally, physically, and socially.

This was a time when people with hyperhidrosis symptoms were often dosed with X-rays. But instead of zapping his patients with dangerous radiation, Stillians offered a much better solution in the form of a revolutionary hyperhidrosis treatment: An aluminum chloride cream that could be applied three times a week to the underarms. He wrote in a medical journal of the period, “In 20 cases in which I have used this lotion, it has never failed to give relief.” It was a harbinger of things to come.

Unfortunately, both Stillian and Odo-ro-no suffered from a common problem. The aluminum chloride contained in these early products could stain clothing and irritate the skin. Stillians notes in his medical journal, “The drug is not wholly bland. For excessive use of it will cause a sharp itching or stinging sensation.”

It would be 1940 before anyone found a way to reduce the unpleasant side effects of antiperspirants made with aluminum chloride. A chemist, Jules Montenier, found a way to buffer the acidity. He filed a patent for the process and an antiperspirant product called Stopette, (great name, BTW) was introduced. In postwar America, a significant uptick in office life led to the increased popularity of deodorants and antiperspirants. In the early 1950’s, roll-ons were born. Aerosol products hit store shelves in the late 1960’s. Today the deodorant and antiperspirant market is almost $76 billion worldwide.

It’s worth noting that while Everdry was the first antiperspirant, deodorants were actually introduced much earlier. They smelled nice but didn’t stop sweating. In the 1860’s, doctors found that certain chemicals used as disinfectants could eliminate body odor. A commercially available disinfectant made specifically for armpits found its way into the market in 1888. It was called Mum (another great name).

In conclusion

It’s easy for people who DON’T sweat excessively to say things like “Antiperspirant is bad!”

For those who suffer with hyperhidrosis, aluminum-based antiperspirants can be life-changing (in a good way). It works non-invasively to eliminate or significantly reduce profuse sweating for millions of people around the world.

According to qualified experts, aluminum chloride is safe. It’s been tested for over eight decades. Study after study demonstrates that there is no connection between antiperspirants and breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease or any other malady. The American Cancer Society and the International Hyperhidrosis Society, among others, attest to its safety and efficacy.

You’ve heard the rumors. If you use (or have considered using) an antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride, you’re probably aware of the controversies. Is antiperspirant bad? Does it really cause cancer, alzheimer’s and kidney problems? Let’s take a few moments and separate fact from fiction.

4 Popular myths about aluminum-based antiperspirants:

  • Myth #1 Antiperspirant causes cancer
  • Myth #2 Antiperspirant causes Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Myth #3 Antiperspirant causes kidney problems
  • Myth #4 Antiperspirant prevents the body from releasing toxins

antiperspirant myths

In the age of “fake news” anybody can put out false information that snowballs into perceived reality. Just because it’s widely believed and accepted does not make it true. Information, true or false, travels at the speed of light in the age of the Internet. Once launched, no matter how well-intentioned, misinformation can take on a life of its own. It spreads like wildfire.

Aluminum chloride and aluminum chloride hexahydrate, the active ingredients in many underarm antiperspirants, continue to be maligned by multiple sources. Let’s answer the question posed by this article, “Is antiperspirant bad?” and get to the bottom of why some people may think that it is.

What is aluminum chloride and how does it work?

Aluminum chloride is one of a group of aluminum salts that also includes aluminum chloride hexahydrate, aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium. When it’s partially neutralized, it’s used as the active ingredients in many antiperspirants. Aluminum chloride hexahydrate is the hydrated (water added) form of aluminum chloride. The International Hyperhidrosis Society notes that aluminum chloride has been used for over 80 years and has proven effective and non-toxic.

Aluminum salts work by combining with the water in your sweat to create a chemical reaction. A gel-like plug is formed and deposited in the treated sweat ducts. The plug forms a blockage that prevents sweat from reaching the skin’s surface.

Aluminum chloride’s effectiveness decreases over time and normal sweat function will return. Normal antiperspirants must be reapplied daily to renew the desired anti-sweat effect. Clinical strength antiperspirants like our Sweatblock towelettes can last up to 7 days before there is a need to reapply.

Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant

Perhaps there is another mini-myth or misconception we should debunk before moving on. Deodorants are not the same as antiperspirants. Deodorants can prevent body odor by killing bacteria, but they cannot prevent sweating. Natural deodorants containing essential oils may also inhibit bacteria growth and control odor, but they cannot prevent perspiration. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, may contain ingredients to control odor and kill bacteria, but they also contain an aluminum salt ingredient that acts to prevent sweating.

Now on to the myth-busting.

Does Antiperspirant cause cancer?

Breast cancer is the primary focus of this myth. The myth gained traction from the claims of flawed medical studies and from an anonymous email chain letter that made the global rounds in the early 1990s. The letter claimed that antiperspirants cause cancer.

The chain letter claims that preventing perspiration with the use of antiperspirants traps toxic substances in the body that would otherwise be secreted through the sweat glands. These harmful substances then form cancers. Is antiperspirant bad? If this theory were true, the answer would be yes. But it’s not.

It has been repeatedly shown that sweating does not purge unwanted compounds from the body. Sweat is mostly electrolytes and water. Urination and liver function are responsible for eliminating most harmful or unwanted substances.

Statistics show that one in every eight women (16%) will develop breast cancer at some time in her life. Pointing the finger at aluminum chloride-based antiperspirants as a contributing cause is a serious accusation.

The apparent thinking used by the authors of these now disproved studies asserts that the chemicals in antiperspirants, including aluminum chloride, are absorbed through the skin in the underarms. They claim that nicks from shaving and small abrasions facilitate entry into the body. The studies further assert that these chemicals interact with DNA and lead to malignant mutations in cells. They also say that antiperspirants may interfere with the female hormone, estrogen, known for influencing how cancerous cells multiply.

These studies also point out that most breast cancers begin in the upper outer quadrant of the breast. This is the region closest to the armpit where antiperspirants are used. The flawed logic amounts to guilt by association, geography rather than biology.

“Why you would think that antiperspirant would somehow go upstream and get into your lymph nodes and then somehow get into the breast is unclear,” states Dr. Timothy J. Moynihan. Dr. Moynihan, an oncologist, serves as the Education Chair and consultant for the Division of Medical Oncology at the Mayo Clinic. “It doesn’t make sense other than the fact that it’s in the neighborhood.”

Moynihan concludes that lifestyle changes, including exercise and not smoking, are more important than worrying about antiperspirants. “Everyone worries about underarm antiperspirants,” he says, “but nobody quits smoking.”

Other reputable medical experts say that these so-called studies do not hold water. Ted S. Gansler, MD, MBA and Director of Medical Content for the American Cancer Society stated in an email interview, “There is no convincing evidence that antiperspirant or deodorant use increases cancer risk.”

Gansler goes on to say that many of the studies that claim antiperspirant is bad for you are inaccurate. A few of them found small amounts of antiperspirant compounds including aluminum salts and parabens in cancerous breast tissue, but that their presence does not prove any causal effect. He cited one carefully designed study that compared 793 healthy women with 813 survivors of breast cancer. No evidence that antiperspirants increase the risk of breast cancer was found.

According to the National Cancer Institute, a smaller 2006 study that included 54 women with breast cancer and 50 healthy women, found “no association” between the use of underarm antiperspirants and breast cancer risk.

Finally, this from the American Cancer Society. “There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim.”

Is antiperspirant bad in regards to causing cancer? NO.

Myth busted.

Does Antiperspirant cause Alzheimer’s Disease?

The myth that aluminum chloride in antiperspirants causes Alzheimer’s Disease dates back to the 1980s. At the time, a few studies found high levels of aluminum in the brains of people suffering from this debilitating disease. These studies ignited a firestorm of concern in the general public. Suddenly the use of everyday items like aluminum cans, aluminum foil, antacids, cooking utensils and antiperspirants were labeled as dangerous.

In later research, the findings of the earlier studies could not be replicated. The New York Times pointed out that, “Of all the studies that examined the rumor, at least one, in 1990, suggested a possible link. But the study, which compared the habits of 130 patients with the disease to those of a group of healthy subjects, had a serious flaw: It relied on surrogates to answer for the Alzheimer’s patients.”

Experts, such as William Theis, Vice President of Medical and Scientific Relations at the Alzheimer’s Association of Chicago also refuted the earlier conclusions. “One of the things that happens in Alzheimer’s brains is that they shrink. So you have accumulated a certain amount of aluminum in your brain, and as your brain shrinks, the concentration is going to appear high.”

As for aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, researchers say that this is likely a result, not a cause, of Alzheimer’s. Aluminum is omnipresent and traces of the metal are found in everyone. In patients with Alzheimer’s, the dying cells are unable to eliminate toxins which may account for the higher levels of aluminum.

Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., Senior Associate Director of Medical and Scientific Operations for the Alzheimer’s Association echoes the later findings and conclusions regarding aluminum in deodorant and antiperspirants. She says, “There was a lot of research that looked at the link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum, and there hasn’t been any definitive evidence to suggest there is a link.”

As with the false claim that aluminum chloride causes cancer, the rationale was that somehow the aluminum in antiperspirants, applied topically, somehow makes its way into the body. Not so states David Pariser, MD, Professor of Dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and Past President of the American Academy of Dermatology. “The aluminum salts do not work as antiperspirants by being absorbed in the body. They work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in the sweat to form a physical plug… which is deposited in the sweat duct, producing a blockage in the areas that it’s applied. Even [with] nicks from shaving, the amount is so negligible that it doesn’t make a whole lot of scientific sense.”

The science is conclusive. There is no credible, science-based evidence that aluminum chloride used in antiperspirants causes Alzheimer’s Disease. The studies show that aluminum in antiperspirants is safe. Again, to the question, “Is antiperspirant bad?” the answer is NO.

Myth busted.

Does Antiperspirant cause kidney problems?

Is aluminum in antiperspirant bad for your kidneys? After all, the FDA requires a warning on the labeling of all antiperspirants containing any form of aluminum.

For healthy people whose kidneys function normally, the warning does not apply. They are able to process and eliminate aluminum efficiently. The warning is only cautionary for people who already suffer from serious or advanced kidney disease. It’s meant for those whose kidneys are functioning at 30% efficiency or less. It is intended to be overly cautious.

Concerns about aluminum in antiperspirants first surfaced some years ago. People undergoing dialysis for diseased kidneys were given a drug called aluminum hydroxide. It was prescribed to control high phosphorus levels in their blood.

Because their kidneys were not functioning or functioning at severely reduced levels, their bodies could not remove the aluminum hydroxide quickly enough. Researchers became concerned that patients with high levels of aluminum in their systems were more likely to develop dementia.

As a result of these concerns, the FDA mandated that antiperspirants carry this caveat: “Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease.”

The reality is that it’s almost impossible to absorb enough aluminum by way of the skin to damage the kidneys or any other part of the body. According to nephrologistLeslieSpry, MD, FACP, spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation.”Unless you eat your stick or spray it into your mouth, your body can’t absorb that much aluminum.”

The overwhelming evidence demonstrates that aluminum chloride in antiperspirants does not cause kidney disease.

Is antiperspirant bad for our kidneys? If you don’t have kidney disease, a resounding NO. If you do, still, probably not.

Myth busted.

Does Antiperspirant prevent the body from releasing toxins?

Is antiperspirant bad for ridding the body of toxins? There’s bad news for those who believe sweating purges toxins.

Sweating out toxins is the real myth here.

Sweating is a bodily function designed to cool us down. If excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) isn’t an issue, it does its job well. But, sweating does not eliminate toxins or waste products. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in the sauna. As we pointed out earlier, that’s what the kidneys and liver are for. We can no more sweat out toxins than we could sweat bullets, as the saying goes.

As with some falsehoods, there is a grain of truth in this one. A very small grain. While sweat is mostly composed of water and electrolytes, it can contain trace amounts of various toxins. A new study published in the journal Environment International, shows that even if we do excrete environmental toxins out through our pores, the amounts are minuscule. Not enough to make a difference.

Joe Schwarcz is a chemist who directs McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. Its purpose is to debunk science myths. He says, “When you look at sweat, you can find many substances, [but] the presence of a chemical cannot be equated to the presence of risk.”

Pascal Imbeault is an exercise physiologist at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He recently led a recent study focused on pollutants that are stored in body fat. His study found that a person exercising at high intensity for 45 minutes could sweat a total of two liters a day, including normal, non-exercise induced sweat. All that sweat contains less than one-tenth of a nanogram of pollutants and toxicants.

Using an antiperspirant containing aluminum does not inhibit the body from excreting toxins by sweating. Sweating does a very poor job of that without any outside influence.

Do aluminum chloride based antiperspirants prevent your body from releasing toxins? Nope.

Myth busted.

The bottom line

Is antiperspirant bad? With the possibility of causing skin irritation for users with sensitive skin, the consensus answer is NO. There is no viable scientific evidence that aluminum chloride, or any aluminum salt compound used in antiperspirants, presents a threat to our health.

“These products can be used with high confidence of their safety. They’ve been used for many years, and there’s no evidence that suggests a problem,” states John Bailey, Ph.D., Chief Scientist with the Personal Care Products Council.

Antiperspirants have no measurable effect for elevating the risks of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, kidney disease of the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins.

So, why do the rumors persist? The Internet is a perfect vehicle for recycling old issues and raising questions that have already been answered. And, there are those who stand to profit from peddling misinformation. Self-interest over honesty. Sad but true. That’s the world we live in.

So, the next time the question comes up, “Is antiperspirant bad?” you’ll know the answer.