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Did You Know That Normal Sweating May Indicate Health Problems?

| Reviewed By Arya Krishnan

We all sweat and it is one of the most natural responses of our body. We tend to sweat when hot, when nervous, when in panic and more. Sweating helps regulate body temperature and is the release of the salt-based fluid from the sweat glands.

Sweating in normal amounts is an essential bodily process and you normally sweat from armpits, palms of the hands, soles of the feet and face [1]. Studies point out that, while normal sweating may indicate a well-functioning body, not sweating enough and sweating too much can both cause problems [2].

Sweating excessively may be more damaging than psychologically than physically and the absence of sweat can be dangerous because of the risk of overheating. Let us take a look at how sweating works or why do you sweat and can sweating indicate underlying health problems. Sweat is made mostly of water, about 1 per cent of sweat is a combination of salt and fat.


Why Do We Sweat?

Besides just cooling down, there are many reasons why our body starts producing sweat. When your body starts to sense that it's overheating, it starts sweating as a way to control its temperature [3]. The human body has an average of three million sweat glands, which is characterised into two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine [4].

  • Eccrine sweat glands: These are located all over your body and produce a lightweight, odourless sweat.
  • Apocrine sweat glands: These are located in the hair follicles of scalp, armpits and groin [5]. The apocrine glands release a heavier, fat-laden sweat that carries a distinct odour (body odour) which is produced when apocrine sweat breaks down and mixes with the bacteria on your skin [6].

The autonomic nervous system in your body controls the sweating function and when the weather is hot or your body temperature rises due to exercise or fever, sweat is released through ducts in your skin, which in turn moistens the surface of the body and cools you down.

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Hyperhidrosis is a condition of excessive sweating from the armpits, hands, and feet, and hypohidrosis is when the amount of sweat is low in comparison to normal amounts[7].


Causes Of Sweating

Sweating is a normal occurrence and is caused or stimulated by several reasons and they are mentioned below.


1. Emotions

Studies point out that emotions and conditions can make you sweat, maybe a little more than usual. Emotions such as anger, fear, embarrassment, anxiety and emotional stress can lead to sweating [8].


2. Temperature

One of the main causes of sweating is increased levels of the body or environmental temperatures [9]. For example, while you are exercising your body temperature will naturally rise.

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3. Foods

Termed as gustatory sweating, sweating can be a response to the foods you eat. Food-related sweating can be triggered by spicy foods, caffeinated drinks, including soda, coffee, and tea and alcoholic beverages [10][11].

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4. Certain Medications

Sweating may also be caused by medication use and certain illnesses, such as cancer, fever, infections, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), painkillers, synthetic thyroid hormones and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) - a rare form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or leg [12][13].


5. Menopause

As studies point out, women who are undergoing menopause often experience night sweats and sweating during hot flashes [14]. Sweating triggered by menopause is due to the hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause.

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Complications Of Sweating

Normal sweating is nothing to be concerned about, however, sweating may indicate underlying health problems in some people, when it occurs with other symptoms [15]. If you sweat along with chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and continued perspiration for an extended period of time without cause, you should consult a doctor immediately as these could be an indication of health problems [16].

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Some people also lose weight from sweating, which is not normal [17].


What To Do When You Are Sweating?

First of all, a normal amount of sweating is nothing to be worried about and does not require medical attention. However, you can take some steps to reduce your normal amount of sweating because let's be honest, being sweaty all the time is not a good look on anyone and can make it uncomfortable for people to be around you.

  • Wash dried sweat off of your face and body.
  • Wear light clothing that allows your skin to breathe.
  • If you are feeling sweaty, remove the layers of clothing.
  • Drink water to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating, sports drinks are also a quick relief.
  • Avoid foods that increase your sweating.
  • Change out of sweaty clothes to reduce the risk of bacterial or yeast infections [18].
  • Apply an antiperspirant or deodorant to reduce odour and control sweating.

If the sweating is caused by any illnesses or medications, discuss with your doctor about alternative treatments.


On A Final Note…

Sweating in normal amounts is natural and one should be concerned if they are sweating either too much or too little, as it can indicate a medical problem. Likewise, sweating while showing symptoms such as chest pain is also a cause for concern.

You can manage your normal sweating by making lifestyle changes such as a diet shift, wearing light clothes and following proper hygiene practices such as washing your face, washing the sweaty clothes after single use etc.

Arya KrishnanEmergency Medicine
Arya Krishnan
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