Why Do I Sweat So Much?

Sweating a Lot? Potential Causes and Possible Solutions

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Sweating too much is a common concern. Some exercisers are bothered by sweating a lot during exercise. But even when you're not working out you might experience excessive underarm sweat or sweat in the groin area that can cause embarrassment and discomfort. It can be helpful to target the causes of sweat to find the best solution.

Why Do I Sweat So Much?

In most cases, sweating is normal. Sweat is produced in glands located in the dermis layer of your skin.

Sweat is released through pores, which are tiny openings in your skin. Each square inch of skin contains about 650 sweat glands.

So why do we sweat? Our bodies perspire to release heat and cool down. Even though you may not notice it, you're sweating all the time. Sweat usually evaporates quickly so you don't notice that it is there. But there are some occasions when you may notice a build up of perspiration. Conditions that often cause you to sweat more than usual include:

  • heat
  • exercise
  • emotional stress or anxiety
  • spicy foods (curry, cumin, hot sauce, etc)
  • alcoholic drinks
  • caffeinated drinks

You're also more likely to sweat often if your body is going through hormonal changes. Sweating a lot during the teen years and (for women) excess sweating during menopause is very common.

Some people notice that they sweat more than other people around them. If you are overweight or obese, you may notice that you sweat more than friends and family members with smaller bodies.

People with a high BMI are likely to sweat more. And men generally sweat more than women, especially during exercise.

How Much Sweat Is Normal?

So how do you know if you are sweating too much? About 3 percent of the population has a condition called ​hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating.

Dr. Bradley Bloom, MD is board-certified dermatologist who practices at Skin and Laser Specialists in New York City.

He says that there are no clear diagnostic criteria that indicate exactly how much sweat is too much, but if someone visits him in the office with a complaint that they are sweating too much, they probably are. These patients often say that excessive sweating gets in the way of simple daily activities and limits social and/or professional opportunities.

According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, here are two different kinds of hyperhidrosis: secondary generalized hyperhidrosis and primary focal hyperhidrosis.

Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is excess perspiration that happens as the result of another medical condition. For example, people with gout, diabetes, or certain heart conditions may experience hyperhidrosis. Women who are pregnant or going through menopause are also at higher risk for hyperhidrosis.

You may also experience excessive sweating because of a drug that you take. Certain medications are known to cause hyperhidrosis. The organization compiles a list that you can check if you think your medication is causing you to sweat too much.

Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis develops in adulthood. Excess sweating may occur in one area of the body or all over (generalized).

Sweating may also happen during the day for no apparent reason or at night during sleep.

If you have primary focal hyperhidrosis you experience excessive sweating in one or more specific locations on your body. Often this includes the armpits, feet, hands, or forehead and will occur on both sides of the body.

People with primary focal hyperhidrosis often have a family history of the condition. The condition often becomes noticeable in adolescence and doctors are generally not able to pinpoint a specific cause (such as medication or a medical condition). If you have primary focal hyperhidrosis, you will not experience excess sweating during sleep.

Why Do My Armpits Sweat So Much?

Sweating all over your body can be problematic, but many people notice more sweat in the armpit area. Excessive sweating in the armpits is called axillary hyperhidrosis. You may also experience odor in this area which can make the sweat more embarrassing and cause additional stress or anxiety.

According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, the sweat glands that are active in the armpits are called apocrine glands. These glands emit a thicker fluid than the sweat that you might feel on other areas of your body, like your forehead, your hands or your feet. When this thick sweat interacts with bacteria on the skin under your arms, it causes odor.

While almost everyone experiences some degree of armpit sweat, you might feel like yours is problematic. Simple solutions for armpit sweat include:

  • Garment or dress shields. Isolated cases of excessive sweating may be managed by using small fabric liners or garment shields. The disposable products usually have an adhesive backing so that you can attach them to the inside of a shirt or dress to capture excess perspiration.
  • Sweat-proof shirts. Some excess sweaters manage the problem by wearing an extra layer underneath their clothing. A simple cotton undershirt works for some, but there are also sweat-proof shirts available that are designed to resist perspiration and odor.
  • Antiperspirants. There are many over-the-counter products that address sweating and/or odor. Many health and beauty stores carry antiperspirants (targeted for use on the underarms) that work by clogging the pores so sweat cannot be released. Experts recommend that you apply antiperspirant at night so that it has time to get into the pores and block the sweat glands by morning. Deodorants help mask the odor caused by the mixture of sweat and bacteria. Your doctor may be able to provide you with a prescription-strength antiperspirant that contains aluminum chloride. Prescription products can usually be used on different areas of the body including the hands, feet, underarms and head.
  • Careful planning. If you sweat a lot during certain occasions, like business meetings or social affairs, it may be helpful to plan ahead and bring an extra shirt. Some businessmen and women keep an extra shirt at the office just in case you need it.

There are also medical solutions for armpit sweat. Some are more invasive than others and each has its own pros and cons.

  • Botox. Some patients use botox injections (onabotulinumtoxinA) to treat sweaty underarms. Botox temporarily blocks the signals that tell your glands to start sweating. Dr. Bloom explains that patients who use botox for underarm sweat get relief that lasts about three to six months. Patients need to repeat the injections to get continued relief. Botox can also be used on other areas of the body including the face, palms, and feet. The cost of a botox treatment varies based on location but generally, costs $1000-1500.
  • miraDry. This FDA-approved procedure uses electromagnetic energy to target and eliminate sweat glands in the underarm. Dr. Bloom, who performs this procedure in his New York City office, says that patients usually see an immediate 60-80 percent reduction in underarm sweat after one miraDry procedure and at least an 80 percent reduction after two treatments. "This procedure definitely works on underarm sweat," says Dr. Bloom, "and some studies say that it also works on odor." But he goes on to explain that it may not work on odor if you don’t sweat a lot. "Many things cause odor, he says, and it is harder to quantify odor than it is to quantify sweat.” However, he says that miraDry is his recommended treatment for patients who have excessive underarm sweat because it is more cost-effective than botox and less invasive than surgery. He also says that advances in anesthesia have allowed for more effective treatments and greater results after the initial treatment. Side effects may include damage to nerves under the skin, some achiness, and swelling, or numbness and tingling in the treated area. Dr. Bloom says that most side effects can be minimized with proper pre-procedure care. The cost of miraDry varies based on your area, but generally, costs around $1500-$2000 per treatment. Currently, miraDry is only FDA-approved to treat underarm sweating.
  • Surgery. There are different surgical procedures that either damage or remove underarm sweat glands so that they no longer work. These permanent solutions for underarm sweat may include liposuction, curettage (a scraping procedure), or a combination of both techniques. Complete removal of the underarm tissue (excision) is another possible treatment but is not recommended, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, because of severe side effects including scarring and limited movement in the arm or shoulder area after surgery. The cost of surgery will depend on the procedure you choose, the size of the area you treat and on the part of the country in which you live.

Why Does My Crotch Sweat So Much?

While underarm perspiration is more common, excessive sweat in the groin area may be more uncomfortable and embarrassing. Dr. Mache Seibel, M.D. is a menopause expert and professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School. He explains that the condition is especially embarrassing for women who exercise:

Excessive sweating or perspiration in the vagina, groin, buttock and thigh region is known as truncal hyperhidrosis. But many women know it as the crotch spot. It’s a dead giveaway and an embarrassing demonstration of a great workout.

Dr. Seibel says that odor can occur when the groin area is moist: "A sweaty genital area creates an ideal environment for microbes to thrive. The dampness encourages the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina which can throw off the delicate balance of pH causing odor and discomfort."

He lists potential solutions for the awkward problem:

  • Unscented pads can be used during menstruation to reduce crotch sweat and groin odor. Wipe before and after with baby wipes, and wear cotton panties. Changing the pad often helps reduce odor.
  • RepHresh Gel is a product that helps to bring the pH back to a normal 3.5-4.5 range. Dr. Seibel recommends that his patients use it with a probiotic like RepHresh Pro-B to keep yeast and bacteria balanced on a daily basis.
  • Shaving or trimming the pubic area helps to reduce odor and sweating. But Dr. Seibel says that for some women, shaving can lead to hidradenitis suppurativa, a condition that causes lumps on the skin that look like pimples or boils. But he says that it is a condition that isn't necessarily permanent.
  • Wear loose clothing made from natural fibers. Avoid nylon or synthetic materials. Many sportswear companies make workout wear from wicking fibers that move sweat away from the skin.
  • Talk to your doctor about balancing hormones. Low thyroid or low estrogen in and around menopause can contribute to groin sweat and odor says the doctor.

Lastly, showering daily, especially before or after intense physical activity, will help to keep the groin area clean and free from sweat and odor.

Why Do My Hands and Feet Sweat So Much?

Sweaty hands and sweaty feet can affect your day to day routine in countless frustrating ways. Simply turning a doorknob can become difficult if your palms perspire too much. And sweaty feet can limit your footwear choices.

Palmar hyperhidrosis (on the palms of your hands) and plantar hyperhidrosis (on the feet) can be treated with home and in-office solutions:

  • Antiperspirants. Many of the same products that you use on your underarms to reduce sweating can also be used on your feet. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a stronger antiperspirant to help keep your feet comfortable.
  • Botox. Some patients turn to botox injections to get relief for sweating in the hands and feet. However, the treatment can be costly, is not permanent, and can be uncomfortable when used in the feet and hands.
  • Iontophoresis. These treatment devices allow you to sit with your hands and feet immersed in a tray of water while electrical current passes through the water. Each treatment lasts for roughly 15 to 40 minutes and is repeated three times per week until you get the results you need. During the maintenance phase, you might only do the treatment once per week. The cost of a device may run close to $700 but they can also be rented and your insurance may cover the cost of this traditional sweat treatment.
  • Moisture wicking socks. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people who experience too much sweating in the feet avoid cotton socks and instead choose socks made from moisture wicking fibers. They also suggest that you wear shoes made from natural fibers like leather.

A Word From Verywell

All of us perspire. And almost all of us have experienced moments when we sweat too much. But if you experience excess perspiration all the time, you deserve relief. While sweating too much probably isn't a life-threatening condition, it may be the sign of a more serious issue and treatments for excess sweat are available. So talk to your doctor if perspiration in any part of your body is affecting your day to day routine. Experts recommend that you keep a sweat journal before you go to help your health care provider determine the causes of sweating and the best possible treatments. Your primary care physician may be the best first step for advice, but you may eventually want to seek the care of a board-certified dermatologist to find the best course of action.

Sources:

Amabebe, E. , Osayande, S. , Ozoene, J. and Ugwu, A. (2014) Relationship between Menopausal Sweating and Body Mass Index. Open Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases, 137-146.

Gagnon, D. and Kenny, G. P. (2012), Does sex have an independent effect on thermoeffector responses during exercise in the heat?. The Journal of Physiology, 590: 5963–5973.

Hyperhidrosis. American Academy of Dermatology. Aadorg. 2017. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/dry-sweaty-skin/hyperhidrosis#tips.

International Hyperhidrosis Society. Sweathelporg. 2017. http://www.sweathelp.org.

Intro to Skin Health Handout. American Academy of Dermatology. 2014. https://www.aad.org/public/kids/good-skin-knowledge-lesson-plans-and-activities/skin-health/skin-introduction-ages-11-13.

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