Let’s face it. Everyone sweats. While it’s not comfortable dinner conversation, it’s a totally normal part of being a human being.
Our bodies sweat to reduce and maintain a safe body temperature. Without sweat, we’d constantly battle the threat of heatstroke, and fevers would be absolutely terrifying.
Plus, how would the people that like our gym selfies know that we actually worked out?
However, for some people, sweat is more than just a normal body function. Instead, it’s a constant burden. Sweating excessively is not only annoying; it’s uncomfortable, embarrassing, and can leave you feeling anxious and isolated.
But how do you know if you sweat too much? And if so, why you? Is there something that you’re doing that’s causing you to sweat more than normal?
Let’s talk about it. We’ll break down some myths, add some truths, and offer some possible solutions.
Why do we sweat?
We know that sweat’s function is to regulate body temperature. However, most people think that the moisture of sweat is what cools you down, but it’s actually the evaporation that does the trick.
Your body sweats to cool itself down, and as the moisture evaporates, it transfers your body heat into the atmosphere.
That’s why when you do an intense workout, there’s no time for evaporation, so your body keeps on sweating.
Every person has anywhere from 2-4 million sweat glands. There are 2 main types of sweat glands; Eccrine and Apocrine.
Eccrine glands are the most common and are found all over the surface of the body. They are most numerous on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Apocrine sweat glands are common in armpits and groin area.
Sweat glands become completely activated during puberty. Surprisingly, women have more sweat glands than men, but on average, men sweat 40% more than women (queue the jokes and sweeping generalizations (☺).
How much do most people sweat?
According to The Essentials of Exercise Physiology, third edition, the average person sweats between 500-700 mL per day (2-3 cups), during regular daily activity.
Since a lot of sweat evaporates, and carrying around a vial to collect and measure the dripping sweat would be ridiculous, how do you know how much you’re sweating and if you’re sweating more than you should be?
How much sweat is too much?
Experts agree that if you suffer from excess sweating, you probably already know it.
"It's very difficult to quantify, but most people really do understand when they are sweating too much,” says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, president of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, and a professor of dermatology at St. Louis University.
Eric Schweiger, MD, dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, agrees, saying, "Pretty much anyone who comes to me [complaining of] excess sweating has it...If you think you are sweating more than everyone else, or more than you used to, there is probably an issue going on.”
Common signs of excessive sweating include:
- You frequently sweat through your clothes.
- You’re self-conscious and reluctant with physical contact, because you’re afraid of being sweaty or stinky.
- You spend lots of time during the day dealing with sweat (i.e., changing clothes, wiping yourself down, or putting pads or napkins under your arms).
- Your clothing choices revolve around items that will conceal sweat, like dark clothing, layers, etc.
- You sweat even when you’re not exercising or nervous. The weather doesn’t have to be hot, either.
- You seem more susceptible to skin infections.
- You have at least one “sweating episode” a week.
- You have some family members that seem to sweat a lot, too.
Clinically, excessive sweating is called hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis sweat approximately five times more than their peers. It affects 4.8% of the U.S. population, or around 15.3 million people, though it’s likely more because many sufferers don’t seek treatment.
If you just “web-diagnosed” yourself with hyperhidrosis, you’re probably wondering two things:
- 1. What causes hyperhidrosis?
- 2. And, can I fix it?
So, we’re going to get a little medical here, so stick with us. This stuff is important. There are two basic types of hyperhidrosis. There’s primary focal hyperhidrosis, and then there’s secondary generalized hyperhidrosis (also called diaphoresis).
Focal hyperhidrosis generally appears in adolescence or early adulthood, and typically, you sweat profusely in one area or a few specific areas (like your feet, hands, face, or armpits). On the other hand, generalized hyperhidrosis affects the entire body, or large areas (like the whole back, abdomen, arms, or legs).
Unlike focal hyperhidrosis, generalized hyperhidrosis can appear at any point in your life. It’s more of a spontaneous onset of excess sweating, versus a lifelong condition.
Now, the difference between the two is that focal hyperhidrosis is the disorder. It’s not usually a result of some underlying cause. Conversely, generalized hyperhidrosis usually has an underlying cause.
To put it simply...
Focal Hyperhidrosis: You’ve had it since you were a teenager, and it affects a specific area. There’s likely no underlying disorder or disease.
Generalized Hyperhidrosis: It came in like a wrecking ball, and it affects your whole body (or substantial portions of it). It’s probably caused by something else.
So, why do you sweat so much? It could be because of a medical condition called hyperhidrosis. While focal hyperhidrosis doesn’t have a known cause, there are treatment options.
Generalized hyperhidrosis does have causes. We’ll talk more about next steps, solutions, generalized causes, and other reasons you might be sweating below.
7 Reasons You Sweat So Much
1. Hormones (Menopause, Pregnancy, Puberty)
Hormonal changes and imbalances can wreak havoc on your body, and they can also be the reason you’re sweating too much.
Younger women can also experience hot flashes during PMS or their regular monthly cycle, thanks to the rising progesterone levels (which increase body heat), and the decreasing estrogen levels (which can affect your hypothalamus, the part in your brain that regulates body temperature).
Those hot flashes lead to, you guessed it, sweat. Women aren’t alone, though. Recent studies suggest that low testosterone levels in men can also cause hot flashes and excess sweating. Most of the time, hormone-related hot flashes happen at nighttime. So, if you’re experiencing hot flashes or sweating during the night, hormones might be to blame.
Also, while we’re talking about hormones, if you’re currently going through puberty, and sweating more than usual, it could just be the influx of hormones and all your sweat glands activating.
Several foods cause sweating. Spicy foods, caffeine, meat, salt, alcohol, and fatty processed foods can all make you sweat. Each food has its own reason for making you sweat. For instance, spicy foods contain a chemical called capsaicin that tricks your body into thinking that you’ve been exposed to heat.
Caffeine activates your central nervous system, raising your blood pressure and increasing your heart rate, which can cause you to sweat.
If you notice an increase in perspiration every time you eat or drink a particular food or beverage, sorry to tell you, it’s probably that food.
However, if you find yourself sweating every time you eat, no matter what you’re munching on, there could be something else going on. Gustatory hyperhidrosis, or Frey’s Syndrome, causes sweating while eating, and sometimes even while you’re just thinking about food. Diabetes can also cause you to sweat when you eat.
3. Exercise (and Weight)
Sweating a lot during your workout is completely normal. If you’re asking yourself, “Why do I sweat so much when I exercise?” the answer is usually pretty simple. You’re hot. No, we aren’t complimenting your physique; you’re literally hot. When you exercise, your body heats up, triggering a sweat response.
Research suggests that if you’re in great shape, you might actually sweat quicker and more abundantly than your less fit counterparts. But, being out of shape can also cause you to sweat more. You have to exert a lot of energy when you’re out of shape, so you get hotter, faster.
Your genetics and current hydration level can also impact how much you sweat while working on your fitness.
While we’re on exercise, it’s worth mentioning that your current weight might also be impacting your sweat levels.
Lindsey Bordone, a dermatologist at Columbia Doctors, says, “The most frequent cause [of hyperhidrosis] is obesity because it takes extra work and effort to move when severely overweight.”
Dr. Carolyn Dean, of the Nutritional Magnesium Association agrees that your weight might be what’s causing the extra sweat, saying, “The core temperature of obese people is higher because fat acts as an insulator, so they sweat more to try to cool down.”
4. Emotional Distress (Stress, Anxiety)
There’s a difference between heat-induced sweating and stress sweat. Not only does emotional sweat smell different, it’s also caused by a totally different mechanism. Regular sweat (like you have at the gym) comes from the eccrine glands, which cover most of the body.
Stress sweat is secreted from the apocrine glands, which are found where hair follicles exist (armpits, scalp, and groin).
When you feel stressed or anxious, your body goes into a sort of fight-or-flight mode. Your adrenaline rises, your body releases stress hormones (like cortisol), your heart rate increases, and your muscles tense. Your body responds by making you sweat.
If you have high levels of stress or an anxiety disorder, this could be the culprit for your sweating.
This one might be a bit obvious, but if you live in a hot or humid area, your sweat could be a byproduct of your environment. Remember the whole thing about evaporation? In high humidity, your body’s natural cooling system can’t work effectively. The moisture in the air keeps the sweat on your body from evaporating.
If you’ve recently moved to a hotter area and your sweat increased at the same time, it’s the weather, friend. While we’re on the environment, since stress and anxiety can trigger excessive sweating, a toxic and stressful atmosphere might also be causing your sweating problem.
Medications are a necessary reality for many people. If you take any medicines, (prescribed or herbal), do a deep dive on the side effects. The average prescription drug has an astonishing 70 side-effects, so check those inserts, and make sure your meds aren’t what’s causing the issue.
7. Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions can cause excess sweating. (These are the underlying conditions responsible for generalized hyperhidrosis). Some of these conditions include:
- a. Diabetes
- b. Endocarditis
- c. Heat Exhaustion
- d. Fever
- e. Heart Attack
- f. HIV/AIDs
- g. Hyperthyroidism
- h. Malaria
- i. And Countless Others
If you’re experiencing any other symptoms besides sweating, or if your excess sweat came out of the blue, and none of the other causes for excess sweat are ringing true, you might have something more serious going on. We highly recommend a trip to the doctor.
How Do I Stop Sweating So Much?
Alright, so now you’re probably like, “Okay, but how do I fix it?” We’re not going to leave you high, but we want to leave you dry. Eh? Come on; dad jokes make everything better.
You probably already know the basics, like wearing clean and loose-fitting clothing, showering regularly, keeping towels around to dry yourself off, and keeping the temperature as cool as possible.
All of these “solutions” are more like band-aids, though. They don’t stop the sweat. They’re more like sweat management.
Let’s get real. You don’t want to know how to manage it. You want to know how to stop it.
There are several ways to stop excessive sweating, so you aren’t doomed to an eternity of sweat. Unfortunately, there isn’t one single solution guaranteed to work for every person. Your remedy will depend on what’s causing your sweat.
First, identify the cause. Start by figuring out if you have focal hyperhidrosis or generalized hyperhidrosis. If it’s generalized, try to nail down why it’s happening. If possible, remove the root issue.
For instance, if it’s the food you’re eating, change your diet.
If it’s stress, work on finding your Zen.
If it’s a medication you’re on, see if there’s an alternative prescription to try.
If you’re dealing with hormones, medical conditions, or focal hyperhidrosis (where there’s no identifiable sweat trigger), there are several treatment options available...
Excessive Sweating Treatment Options
Some of the popular treatments for hyperhidrosis include:
- Prescription and Clinical Strength Antiperspirants. Typically stronger than deodorants and antiperspirants found at your local supermarket.
- Iontophoresis An effective hyperhidrosis treatment for hands, feet and face.
- Laser treatments (for the underarm sweat)
- MiraDry for underarm sweating.
- Botox Injections for face, hands, feet, armpits, head, and any other body areas.
- Topical Prescription Medications like the Qbrexza Wipe.
- Oral Medications (also prescribed). These treatment are best option for patients with certain types of hyperhidrosis such as excessive facial sweating , generalized hyperhidrosis, and those who had try without success using other therapies.
- Hyperhidrosis Surgery is typically reserved as a last resort option. Sweat Gland Removal and Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy (ETS) are two types of hyperhidrosis surgery. While these surgeries can be effective in treating excessive sweat, they are permanent and come with other risks.
If you feel like you're sweating too much, and you aren’t sure what’s causing it... or how to fix it, talk to your doctor.
Studies show that only 49%11 of people who have hyperhidrosis have talked to their doctors about it. Don’t be afraid to seek treatment. There’s no reason to deal with the anxiety, embarrassment, and discomfort if you don’t have to.
- 1 - https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003218.htm
- 2 - https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-do-we-sweat-more-in-high-humidity/
- 3 - https://books.google.com/books?id=L4aZIDbmV3oC
- 4 - https://www.sweathelp.org/about-hyperhidrosis/epidemiology-of-primary-hyperhidrosis.html
- 5 - https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/menopause-related-hot-flashes-night-sweats-can-last-years-201502237745
- 6 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4167790/
- 7 - https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Hot-flashes-in-men-An-update
- 8 - https://www.webmd.com/drug-medication/news/20110527/drug-label-overload%231
- 9 - https://www.sweathelp.org/pdf/Diaphoretic_Diseases.pdf
- 10 - https://www.aad.org/diseases/a-z/hyperhidrosis-treatment
- 11 - https://www.sweathelp.org/sweatsolutions-newsletter/news-blog/372-new-research-hyperhidrosis-more-common-severe-and-socially-crippling-than-scientists-realized.html