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What Is Excessive Sweating? continued...

Because people have different "sweat needs," doctors say they can't put a solid number on the question: how much sweat does it take to be diagnosed with excessive sweating?

"It's very difficult to quantify, but most people really do understand when they are sweating too much," Glaser says.

''If you think you are sweating more than everyone else, or more than you used to, there is probably an issue going on," she tells WebMD.

Patients are very good at knowing how much is too much, Schweiger agrees. "Pretty much anyone who comes to me [complaining of] excess sweating has it," he says.

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.

For instance:

  • 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.

Why You Sweat Too Much

Stress, spicy food, and strong emotions. Get the facts on what causes sweat.
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