Why Do I Sweat So Much? And Ways to Deal

We’ve all been there. You’re halfway through a morning run but look like you just went for a dip in the pool. Meanwhile your neighbor runs past, barely glistening. Or you’re about to present a proposal to your biggest client. You feel the sweat soaking through your clothes while the rest of the team sits there, staring at your growing pit stains. While profuse sweating is frustrating, uncomfortable and embarrassing, understanding the cause may help you find the right solution.


TOP 10 CAUSES OF EXCESSIVE SWEATING

  1. Physical fitness and activity
  2. Genetics
  3. Body weight
  4. More sweat glands
  5. Gender
  6. Environment
  7. Your emotions
  8. Your diet
  9. Hyperhidrosis (a medical condition causing excessive, localized sweating)
  10. Diaphoresis (excessive, all-over sweating due to an underlying condition)

Before understanding why you sweat so much, let's unpack why we sweat in the first place.

Why Do We Have to Sweat At All?

Sweating is an essential, biological process to cool down the body, an advantage that separates humans from other animals. Unlike most animals, humans were designed for heat loss, not heat retention. We cool by sweating rather than panting, allowing us to stay cool in circumstances that would overheat other animals.

Early humans developed more sweat glands to run long distances in open areas and survive the equatorial sun, which allowed their brains to expand. So, you might say we owe our impressive evolution to our ability to sweat so much.

If you think it would be better if we didn’t sweat at all, think again. Anhidrosis is a condition that prevents people from sweating normally. When your body can’t cool itself, you can overheat, sometimes to the point of having heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Many factors can cause anhidrosis, which can occur all over your body, in a particular area, or in patches. Finding the underlying cause is the first step in getting treatment.   

Why Do I Sweat So Much?

Normal perspiration is a response to a number of conditions. Excessive sweating, on the other hand, is caused by a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis or chronic sweating.

Is it a good thing to sweat a lot? The good news is that excessive sweating isn’t bad for you, and is usually more damaging psychologically than physically. Having to deal with sweating issues can cause anxiety and lack of confidence in social situations. Uncovering the specific cause of your sweating can help determine which remedies are best suited for you.

Again, sweating is normal and most everyone sweats a certain baseline amount. Here are several factors that can influence when and how much you sweat:

1. Physical fitness and activity

Exercise is probably the first thing you think of as a reason for sweating. Although it seems counterintuitive, the more fit you are, the more you sweat. As your body becomes stronger, it becomes more efficient at burning calories, which generates more heat. Top athletes sweat much sooner into a workout than sedentary people.

As you exercise and your heart rate increases, perspiration cools off the body and allows you to train for longer periods of time. Stay drier by using an antiperspirant, keeping a towel with you during a workout and remembering to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

2. Genetics

Excessive sweating is a hereditary condition influenced by your genes. Studies have shown that 50% of people affected by profuse sweating have a known family history of it.

An interesting outcome of one study showed that people who sweat from the hands and feet are also more likely to sweat from the underarms. Another group sweat excessively from the face, chest, back, and groin areas. There was even a group of people who sweat in cold weather!

3. Body weight

When your body mass is higher, you will sweat more profusely. Fat insulates the body, raising its core temperature. Increased body weight puts a strain on circulation and generates more internal heat. Additionally, fat insulates the body, raising its core temperature. And a higher body temperature means your body needs to sweat more to cool down. Keeping your body weight within normal ranges will help your body stay cooler and drier. 

4. More Sweat Glands

Not everyone has the same number of sweat glands. The average person has about two million sweat glands; some have as many as five million. It follows that the more sweat glands you have, the more you are capable of sweating excessively.

The majority of sweat glands are eccrine sweat glands, which are found in your armpits, the soles of your feet, the palms of your hands, your forehead and cheeks. The sweat from these glands is a clear, odorless fluid that controls your body temperature when the sweat evaporates.

Apocrine glands are found in your armpits and genital region and produce a thick fluid. It produces the body odor we know so well when it comes in contact with bacteria on the skin’s surface.

5. Gender

Even though men and women have about the same number of sweat glands, men produce more sweat. Why? Scientists have found that testosterone increases men’s sweat response. Conversely, estrogen levels in women promote lower body temperatures, which causes women to sweat less.

6. Environment

While this is an obvious one, hot, humid environments raise your body temperature, activating your glands to sweat more to cool you off. Whenever possible, regulate the air temperature around you with fans and open windows. Dressing in layers will also help keep you cooler and more comfortable in warm weather.

7. Your Emotions

Are you anxious? Stressed? Being emotionally upset can often trigger a “fight or flight” response, causing your sweat glands to go into overdrive. Our brains were designed to put our bodies in motion when we were running away from predators. When there is a perceived threat, our heart beats and breathing patterns quicken, increasing body heat and -- you guessed it -- sweat. While we are no longer escaping saber-toothed tigers, anxiety and stress can cause the body to react with a fight or flight response.

Getting enough sleep, relaxation, meditation and yoga are good tools to keep anxiety at bay. Journaling, spending time with supportive friends and having a generally healthy lifestyle are also contributing factors in being happier and less stressed overall. 

8. Your Diet

What you eat and drink may be culprits in making you sweat too much. Certain foods and beverages activate neurotransmitters in your brain, which stimulate your sweat glands. If you find yourself sweating during meals, you may want to avoid or cut back on the following:

  • Spicy foods like hot sauce and jalapeños
  • Pungent foods and spices like curry, pepper and garlic
  • Hot beverages like coffee, tea and soup
  • Stimulants like alcohol and caffeine

9. Hyperhidrosis: Localized, Excessive Sweating

“Why do I sweat so much for no reason?” Chronic, excessive sweating can also be caused by hyperhidrosis, a medical condition that affects nearly 5 percent of the U.S. population. Hyperhidrosis makes you sweat for no reason.

When you have hyperhidrosis, sweat interferes with your daily activities. You visibly sweat even when not exerting yourself. You may struggle to turn a doorknob or hold a pen because your hands are so sweaty. Skin infections are also common.

Hyperhidrosis is divided into two categories — primary and secondary. Primary hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating in one specific area of the body. Secondary hyperhidrosis, or diaphoresis is excessive sweating caused by a medical condition or side effect of a medication.

10. Diaphoresis: All-Over, Excessive Sweating

Secondary hyperhidrosis, or diaphoresis, is sudden, drenching sweat caused by an underlying condition. Once the cause is treated, sweating usually subsides.

Common conditions causing diaphoresis include:

Menopause

Menopause is one of the most common causes of sudden episodes of drenching sweat. As levels of estrogen and progesterone naturally decline when a woman enters her 40s or 50s, episodes of profuse sweating (especially night sweats) and hot flashes are known to happen frequently.

Illness

If you’ve ever had the flu or a high fever, chances are you’ve experienced diaphoresis. When your body is fighting off illness or a high temperature, excessive, all-over sweating is often triggered to combat infection and cool your body down.

Medications

Several prescription medications have been known to list excessive sweating as a side effect. Common medications that cause profuse sweating include:

  • Pain medications
  • Hormonal medications
  • Topical medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Iron supplements
  • Zinc supplements

Pregnancy

Like menopause, changing hormone levels (and weight gain) can trigger profuse sweating during pregnancy. Excessive sweating during early stages of pregnancy is common, as hormone levels and blood flow increases. Sweating after pregnancy is also common, as hormone levels rebalance and excess fluids are released.

Diabetes

Low blood glucose levels at night can cause excessive sweating for diabetics. Obesity, which often accompanies diabetes, can also be a culprit. A condition called autonomic neuropathy is caused by nerve damage, which can affect blood pressure, the bladder, and sweat levels. If you have autonomic neuropathy, you may also experience gustatory sweating, which is sweating caused by food or eating.

Types of Localized Sweating 

Why Do My Armpits Sweat So Much?

Many people think of their armpits first when it comes to profuse sweating.Most of the body’s sweat glands are concentrated in your armpits, which is why you may experience more underarm sweating than in other parts of your body. Armpit sweat is especially problematic because it combines damp, odorless eccrine sweat with apocrine sweat which causes body odor.

The most popular method of dealing with armpit sweat is the use of a good antiperspirant/deodorant. Good hygiene and light breathable clothing are also effective tools. Wearing a sweat proof undershirt by Thompson Tee is a great way to deal with both odor and dampness, keeping you both comfortable and confident.

Why Do My Head and Face Sweat So Much?

Excessive sweating on your head and face is called craniofacial hyperhidrosis. Sweat on the head and face are especially embarrassing because it’s so noticeable. Visible sweating can create or increase anxiety and affect your relationships and social interactions. 

Antiperspirants can be used on your face, head and scalp if they are applied carefully to avoid irritation. Botox injections have also been shown to be successful in treating the effects of craniofacial hyperhidrosis. Prescription medications called anticholinergics can be taken for temporary relief, but their side effects may be prohibitive to most people on a long-term basis. 

Why Do My Feet and Hands Sweat So Much?

Sliding out of your shoes? Excessive foot sweating is called plantar hyperhidrosis. Wearing antiperspirants on your feet along with absorbent socks when possible are two simple ways to combat excessive foot sweat. Botox and oral medications (for short term use) have also been shown to be effective against slippery, sweaty feet.

Profuse sweating of the hands is called palmar hyperhidrosis. It is thought that palm sweat developed in humans to improve the ability to grip objects; however, having dripping-wet hands surely has the opposite effect! Having sweaty hands can be a deterrent in business and social situations where shaking hands is necessary. As with sweaty feet, botox and oral medications can be used as remedies.

Sweating of the hands and feet is called palmoplantar hyperhidrosis. One remedy that can be used to treat both sweaty hands and feet is Iontophoresis. Iontophoresis is a medical procedure in which a mild electrical current is passed through water and through the skin’s surface. Iontophoresis has been proven effective in treating palmoplantar hyperhidrosis in up to 91% of cases, as long as recommended maintenance treatments are kept up.

Why Do I Sweat So Much Between My Legs?

Sweating “down there” is common, especially during exercise and hot weather. Since apocrine glands are present in the groin area, odor also tends to be a problem. How can you deal with groin sweat and avoid embarrassing dampness on your yoga pants?

  • Avoid tight-fitting underwear. Choose cotton or moisture-wicking fabrics.
  • Use clinical-strength antiperspirants between the legs, avoiding the genital area.
  • Bathe or shower twice a day.
  • Use cornstarch (not talc) as an additional method to control moisture and odor.
  • Keep pubic hair trimmed.
  • Keep your weight within a healthy range.

Why Do I Sweat More Than I Used To?

If excessive sweating never used to be a problem for you but now it is, something in your body has likely changed. Changes in hormone levels are a common culprit, especially for women. Eating different foods, gaining weight or taking new medications can also be causes of increased sweating.

Hyperhidrosis usually develops during adolescence but can also occur later in life. Diaphoresis, on the other hand, can develop at any time as a side effect of another condition.

Pay attention to when and where you start sweating excessively. Is it all the time, and for no reason? Is it confined to specific areas or your body, or is it all over? If you can narrow down the “when and where” it will help determine the “why” and enable you to find a solution or at least some helpful remedies.

How Much Sweat Is Too Much? 

If you're constantly asking yourself, "why do I sweat so much?" and still aren’t sure, see your doctor. In the meantime, add a layer of protection against sweat stains with a Thompson Tee. Our patented sweat proof undershirts trap heat and moisture and allow it to evaporate rather than seep through your clothes. When you stop thinking about sweat, you can get back to your daily life.

Lawrence Hunt

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