Many people with hyperhidrosis sweat about four times more than normal, although it could be much more or much less. The key is that they sweat a lot at times the body does not need to cool down. Someone could be calm, relaxed, and cool, but still sweat excessively, Solish says.
Researchers aren't sure what causes hyperhidrosis, but doctors think there may be something wrong between the pathways from the sweat glands to the brain. It appears that the glands are too sensitive in people with hyperhidrosis, Solish says.
This problem may be hardwired in some people. Hyperhidrosis tends to run in families -- up to two-thirds of people have it their family, says Solish. And it tends to start in puberty.
Pariser tells WebMD that hyperhydrosis tends to show itself in three to four areas: Under the arms, on the hands, then on the feet, face, and scalp. But excessive sweating can occur all over the body. The sweating is usually symmetric, meaning that both sides of the body are affected similarly.
Unfortunately, he says, “Sweating isn’t something people want to talk about. There’s a stigma with excessive sweating." So, young people often don't get treatment that could help with this embarrassing problem. "When it starts in the teens and they bring it up to parents or doctors, it’s often blown off as a teen whose body is changing," says Pariser. "Then they think there is something wrong when it’s a medical condition that is treatable.”
How Much Is Too Much Sweat?
When it comes to diagnosing hyperhidrosis, it’s so much not the quantity of sweat, but how it impacts the patient’s quality of life, Solish says.
Someone could sweat two times or eight times the normal amounts, but both of those people still have hyperhidrosis, he says.
“It’s too much if you have to think about your sweating and have to act in some way,” Pariser says.
For example, someone with hyperhidrosis may only wear dark clothing, or bring three of the same shirt to work to change during the day to hide the sweat. Some people even stuff paper towels or maxi pads in the underarms. If they have sweaty hands, they may always hold a wet drink to have an excuse not to shake hands in social situations like a cocktail party, he says.