Sweating usually occurs to help the body cool down when exposed to heat or exertion. In some cases, however, excessive sweating can occur without these stimulants. This condition is known as hyperhidrosis. Sweating caused by hyperhidrosis can be so severe that it soaks through clothes and covers the hands. While not a dangerous condition, hyperhidrosis can be very uncomfortable and cause social anxiety, prompting many people to seek treatment.

Types of Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis can be divided into two types:

  • Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis: The most common form of hyperhidrosis. In this type, sweating mainly occurs on your feet, hands, face, head, and underarms. It usually starts during childhood.
  • Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis: In this type of hyperhidrosis, sweating can occur anywhere in your body, or in just one area. It generally starts in adulthood.

Causes of Hyperhidrosis

Ordinarily, the nervous system sends signals that trigger sweating when the body needs to cool off. Hyperhidrosis causes this response to go in overdrive and sweat even when not needed. This occurs when the nerves in the sweat glands become overactive. They can sometimes be activated by stress or nervousness and will produce sweat in the palms, feet, and face. In most cases, the sweating is nonstop and not triggered by anything. Some of the most common causes of hyperhidrosis include:

  • Heart disease
  • Menopause
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Certain nervous system disorders (i.e., Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, among others)
  • Lung disease (many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, infections like pneumonia, among others)
  • Thyroid disease: a condition that is caused by the over or under function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is an essential organ for producing thyroid hormones, which maintains the body’s metabolism.

Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis

Symptoms of excessive sweating include:

  • Excessive sweating that has occurred for at least six months without an apparent reason
  • Sweat that occurs on both sides of your body in roughly the same amount
  • Incidents of excessive sweating at least once a week
  • Sweating that interferes with your daily activities
  • Excessive sweating that began when you were younger than 25 years old

Diagnosis of Hyperhidrosis

Your doctor will ask questions about your sweating, such as when and where it occurs. After doing so, your doctor will perform a physical examination and one or more of the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Hyperhidrosis

Treating hyperhidrosis involves managing the symptoms. If hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying condition, then treating such should fix the problem. For patients with primary hyperhidrosis, however, symptom management is the only solution.

Lifestyle changes

  • Bathing on a daily basis to reduce bacteria buildup
  • Wearing light, breezy clothing made of cotton, wool, or silk
  • Try relaxing activities such as meditation or yoga
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests


  • Prescription antiperspirants will help reduce the amount of sweating in the affected body parts
  • Prescription creams that contain glycopyrrolate will help reduce the amount of sweating specifically in the face and head
  • Antidepressants will help reduce the amount of sweating as well as social anxiety, a common side effect of hyperhidrosis
  • Botulinum toxin injections will temporarily block the nerves that cause sweating

Medical and surgical procedures

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