What is Diaphoresis? Causes, Treatments and Prevention

Do you ever discover yourself drenched in sweat without warning, but don’t know why? If you can’t trace your excessive sweating to a specific cause, you may have diaphoresis, or excessive all-over sweat.

A little sweating is totally normal, but everyone sweats differently. The questions of “how much” and “why” are key differentiators between normal sweat and conditions like hyperhidrosis or diaphoresis.

Most of us can agree that constantly dealing with surprise sweat is no laughing matter. It can result in reduced self-confidence and fear of social situations, not to mention managing visible sweat stains when you least expect it.

So what is diaphoresis, and how can you best manage it? Today, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about this particular excessive sweating condition.

What Is Diaphoresis?

Diaphoresis (also known as secondary hyperhidrosis) is a side effect of another condition or illness, or a reaction to a medication. Diaphoresis causes sudden, all-over sweating for no apparent reason, and affects the entire body, rather than selective areas.

Diaphoresis can be remedied once the root cause is determined.

Diaphoresis Vs. Hyperhidrosis

What is the difference between hyperhidrosis and diaphoresis? Hyperhidrosis and diaphoresis each describe the same medical condition (excessive sweating), but they vary in causes and slightly differ in symptoms.

Hyperhidrosis (also called primary hyperhidrosis) is a medical condition that causes uncontrollable, excessive sweat. People with hyperhidrosis will sweat heavily in just one area, like the armpits, hands, chest, face or head, due to overactive sweat glands in one or more of the aforementioned areas.

Hyperhidrosis is known to affect at least 5% of the population, although many more live undiagnosed. The cause of primary hyperhidrosis is unknown (it’s speculated to be genetic), and there is currently no cure for this condition, though excessive sweating can be mitigated.

Diaphoresis, on the other hand, has direct, known causes. Additionally, those with diaphoresis experience all-over sweating - not just localized sweating.

Causes of Diaphoresis

There are several common causes of diaphoresis. Since it’s impacted by an underlying condition or is a side effect of medication, being able to determine the specific cause can enable you to stop diaphoresis quickly.

1. Hormone-related conditions

Hormones regulate many bodily functions. When hormonal imbalances occur, the body may compensate by producing excess sweat. Common hormone-related conditions that can cause diaphoresis include:

  • Pregnancy: Elevated hormone levels, weight gain and heightened metabolism can cause diaphoresis.
  • Menopause: During menopause, a woman’s body experiences drastic changes in hormone levels, which the brain interprets as overheating. This can result in excessive sweating and hot flashes.
  • Diabetes: Low blood sugar can trigger an acute stress response, producing hormones that cause diaphoresis.
  • Hyperthyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland overproduces a hormone called thyroxine. Excessive sweating is a common symptom.

2. Diseases

Diseases affect the body in many ways. The body’s Immune responses to fighting disease can cause diaphoresis. Common diseases that can trigger excessive sweating include:

  • Parkinson’s disease: This disease concerns the nervous system, so sweat glands can be affected, potentially causing diaphoresis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Diaphoresis is a common symptom of this disease, in addition to joint pain and swelling.
  • Gout: Gout, which is another form of arthritis, can also cause diaphoresis. Gout usually involves swelling at the base of the big toe.
  • Heart disease: Those with heart disease are susceptible to heart attacks or heart failure. Excessive sweating can be a symptom of a heart attack.
  • Certain types of cancer (bone cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, lymphoma): Sweating is also a symptom of certain types of cancers.
  • Obesity: Obesity is a chronic but treatable disease. Having a high body mass index can cause diaphoresis. 

3. Withdrawal

  • Alcohol and drug addiction: Drinking alcohol in excess or taking drugs affects body chemistry, which often leads to a profuse sweat response.
  • Alcoholism and drug withdrawal: Diaphoresis is a common side effect of those who cut excessive alcohol or drug consumption abruptly and experience withdrawal.

You should consider seeking medical attention to help with withdrawal from recreational drugs.

4. Illnesses

  • Bacterial infections or fevers: Your body takes a beating when you’re sick. Flu bugs and infections often cause fever to fight off the illness, and some cold medications can actually cause you to sweat more. Rest and drinking plenty of liquids helps, but know that occasional bouts of sweat are normal and to be expected.

5. Allergic Reactions

  • Anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that must be treated immediately. Excessive sweating is one of the first symptoms.

6. Medications and Supplements

Many types of medications and supplements have been known to list sweating as a side effect of their usage. However, only a small percentage of people (in some cases less than 1%) experience undue sweating.

The following medications are commonly known to cause diaphoresis, with a likelihood of occurrence as high as 50%.

  • Zinc Supplements (Cold-Eeze® [OTC]; Galzin™; Orazinc® [OTC]; Zincate®)
  • Antidepressants such as Desipramine (Norpramin®) or Nortriptyline (Pamelor®)

Other types of medications linked to diaphoresis include:

  • Pain relievers and migraine medication
  • Medications that treat diabetes, heartburn, cancers or Parkinson’s disease
  • Asthma inhalers, which trigger sweat glands
  • Stimulants like sildenafil (Viagra) that increase blood flow

When to See a Doctor for Diaphoresis

If you’re a “normal sweater”, there’s no need to worry. But if you’re sweating profusely through multiple changes of clothes, avoiding social situations altogether or feel like your confidence is being hindered by sweat, you should talk to your doctor.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience excessive sweating with any of the following symptoms, which may be signs of a more life-threatening condition:

  • chest pain or heart palpitations
  • cold, clammy skin
  • loss of consciousness or dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pale skin color
  • seizures
  • trouble breathing

Diaphoresis Treatments

Since diaphoresis is caused by an underlying condition, the best way to treat it is to resolve the disease or disorder that is triggering your sweating in the first place.

No matter what type of sweat you’re dealing with, profuse sweating can be quite embarrassing and inconvenient. The good news is that once you’ve determined what kind of sweat you’re experiencing, you can take steps to manage it.

There are several medications or over-the-counter treatments to deal with diaphoresis

1. Clinical strength antiperspirants

Your doctor may prescribe antiperspirants to help control your sweating. The most effective ones contain 10 to 15 percent aluminum chloride, which effectively plugs your sweat glands.

Check out our top-ranked antiperspirants of all time.

2. Anticholinergic medications

Anticholinergic medications block certain neurotransmitters that affect how your body functions. Anticholinergics are prescribed as an “off-label” use to help profuse sweating. Off-label means that a drug has been approved by the FDA for a specific medical use, but has been found to be effective for other conditions. Anticholinergics come in tablet and cream forms.

Learn more about oral medications for sweating.

3. Botox

Botox is a botulinum toxin that causes paralysis of underlying muscles. Chemical injections of botox block sweat gland activity and may provide short-term relief. It’s important to note that Botox can be very costly, and isn’t an effective solution for everyone.

Learn more about the effects of Botox, plus better alternatives.

4. Iontophoresis

Iontophoresis is a procedure that uses a small electrical current to temporarily reduce localized sweating. Iontophoresis is not an effective all-over treatment, but may provide short-term relief for intense sweating on the hands and feet.

We share everything you need to know about ionotophoresis in our blog.

Other Ways to Manage Diaphoresis

In addition to treatments, there are affordable solutions and practical steps you can take to manage diaphoresis and stay comfortable and sweat mark-free..

1. Update Your Wardrobe

  • Avoid tight clothing and certain materials: Give your skin room to breathe and reduce the occurence of sweat stains. Opt to wear breathable fabrics, like cotton or rayon from bamboo instead of polyester or proclaimed “sweat-wicking” materials.
  • Add a Thompson Tee to your wardrobe: Thompson Tee is the only patented sweat proof undershirt on the market made for both men and women and guaranteed to block 100% of underarm sweat stains and odor. Their Hydro-Shield sweat proof technology prevents sweat stains showing through your clothing and ruining your outer layers. Whether you wear it as a standalone t-shirt or an undershirt, a Thompson Tee is your best insurance against drenching sweat and pit stains.

2. Be Prepared

  • Dress in layers: If unpredictable weather is a factor where you live, dressing in layers helps you be prepared for anything that comes your way.
  • Use air conditioning and fans: Wherever you are, keep your skin cool and body temperature regulated by staying near fans and air conditioned rooms whenever possible.

3. Modify Your Lifestyle and Habits

  • Identify and avoid foods and beverages that trigger your sweating: Alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods are known to increase excessive sweating.
  • Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is especially critical if you deal with profuse sweating. Sweating causes your body to lose water, which can result in dehydration.
  • Exercise regularly: While it may seem counterintuitive to engage in any activity that makes you sweat more, the benefit of exercise cannot be overstated. Exercise lowers blood pressure and has a calming effect on most people, reducing anxiety that can lead to excessive sweating.

Overcoming Diaphoresis is Possible

If you’re at your wits’ end with diaphoresis , know that you aren’t alone. We understand your struggle, which is why we invented Thompson Tees in the first place.

Thompson Tees offer the ultimate protection from underarm sweat marks and yellow stains. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of sweaty individuals win back their confidence and live a sweat mark-free life.

Whether you’re dealing with diaphoresis, hyperhidrosis or sweat only occasionally, you can always count on Thompson Tee to help you stay dry and comfortable throughout the day.

Try a Thompson Tee risk-free today!