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How to Talk to Your Doctor About Excessive Sweating

It's normal to sweat when you're nervous or hot, but if you're soaking through your shirt and socks at the end of each day, you may have a real medical problem called hyperhidrosis.

Instead of trying to cover up heavy sweating, see your doctor. Excessive sweating isn't normal, and it's not something you have to live with. It can be treated.

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If you're embarrassed to talk about your problem or don't know how to begin the conversation with your doctor, here are a few tips to ensure that your first appointment is no sweat.

When to Call Your Doctor About Heavy Sweating

How do you know that you have a problem with excessive sweating? Here are a few clues:

  • You produce so much sweat that you soak through your shirt, pants, or socks
  • You sweat even when it is cool outside or you aren't exercising
  • You sweat at night, especially if you soak through your sheets
  • You have other symptoms, such as chest pain or heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fever, or unintentional weight loss

A number of different doctors treat hyperhidrosis. You can start by seeing your primary care doctor or call for an appointment with an internist or dermatologist.

What to Tell Your Doctor About Your Heavy Sweating

When you go in for your first doctor's visit, it helps to know a little bit about your sweating patterns and what seems to trigger heavy sweating. In the days or weeks before your appointment, keep a diary of the following information:

  • How many times a day do you have to change your clothes?
  • How many times a day do you bathe or shower, and what type of soap do you use?
  • What methods have you tried (such as antiperspirants or absorbent foot pads) to control excessive sweating?
  • How has heavy sweating affected your life -- for example, have you had to change social plans, lost friends, or been affected at work because of hyperhidrosis?
  • Do you experience any skin irritation at the site of the heavy sweating?
  • How does heavy sweating affect you emotionally? Do you ever get sad or angry because of it?

 

What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office

Your doctor will ask you about your sweating -- when it occurs, and what seems to trigger it. You'll also be asked about your medical history, including any medical conditions you have and medicines you are taking.

The doctor will do a medical exam, which may include:

  • Lab tests to check for conditions that can cause hyperhidrosis, such as heart disease, thyroid problems, and diabetes.
  • Tests for hyperhidrosis. The starch-iodine test uses a mixture of iodine and starch, which turns blue in areas where your body is sweating excessively. The paper test uses a special type of paper applied to the affected area to measure the volume of sweat you are producing.

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