What Is Excessive Sweating? continued...
Except for women during the menopausal transition, there's no "normal" increase in sweating with age, Glaser says. If you think you're sweating more as you get older, don't just chalk it up to additional birthdays, she says.
One telltale clue that sweating may be abnormal, Glaser says, is sweating excessively from one area of your body only. (But sometimes excessive sweating occurs all over the body.)
Sweating without a need for it is another sign of abnormal sweating. "If you're sweating constantly in the winter in Chicago, that's probably excessive," Farris says.
Those with excessive sweating of the feet may produce so much sweat they are sliding out of their shoes, she says.
What Causes Excessive Sweating?
Most often, no cause of excessive sweating can be found. Doctors call it idiopathic -- meaning the cause is unknown or obscure. However, there may be genetic influences.
"About 50% of people with primary [excessive sweating] have a known family history," Glaser says.
This type of excessive sweating usually begins after puberty, Glaser says. Sweating just on the hands and feet often starts even younger, perhaps in infancy or during the toddler years.
A variety of other factors can cause excessive sweating, including underlying medical conditions and medicines, Glaser says.
- Frey's syndrome is a condition in which sweating occurs from just one side of the face when certain foods are eaten. It occurs after surgery on, or injury near, the saliva-producing glands.
- Medications taken for endocrine problems, diabetes, and thyroid disease can also trigger excessive sweating.
- So can certain high blood pressure medicines, as well as some antidepressant medications.
- In addition, heavy sweating can be caused by infections, certain cancers, heart or lung disease, menopause, and sometimes even a stroke.
How Is Excessive Sweating Diagnosed?
It's important to keep in mind that most people who sweat heavily are normal, and not sick. If you are worried, and decide to see a doctor, most specialists will take a careful medical history, Glaser says.
Among the questions you can expect:
- Do you sweat excessively from certain small areas of your body or all over?
- When do you notice yourself sweating? Can you describe the situation?
- What medications are you taking regularly?
- Have you recently started taking new medications?
- Have you had any surgeries recently?
- Are you going through menopause?
- Do you have family members who complain of excessive sweating?
If the doctor determines that your sweating is "idiopathic," and has no known cause, you can still treat the problem if you wish. Treatments range from simple home remedies such as showering more frequently to medications or surgery such as sweat gland removal.
It's important to see a doctor, Glaser says. So many of her patients, she says, have been told even by health care professionals: "It's no big deal."