Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. It causes your body to sweat more than it needs to, sometimes for no apparent reason. This condition may make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, but it’s common. A healthcare provider can help you find treatment that manages your symptoms. It could include special antiperspirants, medications or therapies.
Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating. This condition happens when you sweat more than what your body needs to regulate your temperature. You may experience sweating when you’re at rest, in cold temperatures or randomly at times when you wouldn’t expect to sweat.
Sweat is an odorless fluid released from your eccrine glands (sweat glands). Sweat’s job is to help regulate your body temperature and prevent overheating. You have eccrine glands in your skin. Sweat moves from your glands through tubes called ducts until it reaches the surface of your skin. Once sweat leaves the ducts, it changes from a liquid to a gas and disappears from your skin (evaporates) to cool down your body.
Hyperhidrosis is the result of your sweat glands overworking.
There are two types of hyperhidrosis:
Hyperhidrosis is common. Research suggests that an estimated 3% of adults in the United States between ages 20 and 60 have hyperhidrosis.
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The main symptom of hyperhidrosis is sweating. When you sweat, you may feel:
Over time, hyperhidrosis can lead to the following symptoms:
Hyperhidrosis symptoms can range in severity. You may have minor symptoms that come and go or you may have constant symptoms that have an impact on your day-to-day activities.
Hyperhidrosis can also have an emotional impact on your life. Many people who have hyperhidrosis feel embarrassed when they sweat or they might avoid being around other people. If this condition affects your mental health, reach out to a healthcare provider to help you manage your symptoms and a mental health professional to help you manage how you feel about your body.
Sweat comes from eccrine glands, which exist in the skin throughout your body. You have the most eccrine glands in your:
The most common location on your body to experience excessive sweating is the palms of your hands.
Overactive sweat glands cause hyperhidrosis. Your eccrine glands (sweat glands) create sweat to cool down your body when you get hot. This process activates when you exercise or if you’re nervous. If you have hyperhidrosis, your eccrine glands activate and produce sweat more often than when your body is too hot. You may experience sweating at random times of the day when there isn’t something like an activity or emotion causing your glands to produce sweat. Research is ongoing to learn more about why your glands make too much sweat.
Your body produces sweat to cool it down and prevent overheating. There may be certain triggers in your environment that can cause your sweat glands to produce more sweat including:
Certain medications can cause sweating as a side effect, including but not limited to:
If you take any of these medications and experience symptoms of hyperhidrosis, talk to your healthcare provider. Don’t stop taking a medication unless your provider tells you it’s safe to do so.
Hyperhidrosis (generalized) could be a sign of an underlying medical condition including but not limited to:
Yes, you may be more at risk of hyperhidrosis, specifically focal hyperhidrosis, if someone in your biological family has the condition. Research indicates that a hereditary genetic mutation or change to your DNA could cause hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis can cause complications that include:
Hyperhidrosis can also impact your mental health. You may find yourself changing your routine to hide your symptoms from others. Constant sweating may be so severe that you avoid common actions, such as lifting your arms or shaking hands. You may even give up activities you enjoy to avoid problems or embarrassment from excessive sweating. Contact a healthcare provider if hyperhidrosis affects your mental health and social well-being.
A healthcare provider will diagnose hyperhidrosis after a physical exam and learning more about your symptoms and medical history. They’ll evaluate your symptoms using diagnostic criteria. If you experienced excessive sweating for at least six months and answered yes to at least two of the following questions, it may lead to a hyperhidrosis diagnosis:
A healthcare provider may use one of the following tests to determine the cause of hyperhidrosis:
Treatment for hyperhidrosis varies based on the part of the body affected, the severity of your diagnosis and what treatment options work for you. A healthcare provider or a dermatologist can help you find the best treatment options to help you manage your symptoms. There isn’t one form of treatment that works well for everyone.
You can manage your symptoms of hyperhidrosis at home by:
A healthcare provider or dermatologist may recommend taking medications to reduce your symptoms of hyperhidrosis, including:
Talk to a healthcare provider about the side effects of the medication they prescribe before taking them.
If your symptoms don’t improve with at-home treatment and/or medications, your healthcare provider may recommend more specialized therapies:
When other treatments don’t work well and your symptoms persist, your provider may consider surgery:
Surgery has the potential to offer lasting benefits for persistent sweating that doesn’t respond to other therapies. Talk to your surgeon about the possible side effects of surgery to see if it’s right for you.
Each type of treatment has possible side effects. Side effects of hyperhidrosis treatment could include:
Your healthcare provider will have the most up-to-date information about the possible side effects of the treatment they offer. Make sure you discuss with your provider the possible side effects before starting treatment.
You may feel better immediately after you begin treatment, or it may take a few weeks to months before you notice any changes to your symptoms. The timeline for each type of treatment varies. Your provider can let you know what to expect with each type of treatment option.
Not all cases of hyperhidrosis are preventable. For example, you can’t prevent focal hyperhidrosis since it may have a genetic cause. If you have generalized hyperhidrosis, managing or treating any underlying health conditions can help. You can also work with your healthcare provider to manage the side effects of medications you’re prescribed to reduce the likelihood of hyperhidrosis.
While hyperhidrosis has no cure, there are a variety of treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms. The condition isn’t life-threatening, but it can have a major impact on your life. You may feel embarrassed or sensitive talking about your condition and it might keep you from participating in activities that you regularly enjoy. If hyperhidrosis affects your mental health, talk to a healthcare provider or a mental health professional. They can help you feel better about your body and the effect of overactive sweat glands.
There’s no cure for focal hyperhidrosis. Treatments can help you reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Generalized hyperhidrosis can go away if you and your healthcare provider manage or treat the underlying cause, which could be either a side effect of an underlying condition or a medication you take. Not all cases of generalized hyperhidrosis have a cure.
You should call your healthcare provider if sweating:
In some cases, extreme sweating may be due to a severe and sometimes life-threatening condition. See a healthcare provider right away if you have chest pain or feel nauseous or dizzy along with sweating symptoms.
If you have hyperhidrosis, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
Sweat from your eccrine glands is naturally odorless, but it can combine with bacteria and cause an odor. Sweat is made up of mostly water. Your body naturally has small amounts of bacteria on it. When bacteria on your skin combine with sweat droplets, the bacteria break down the tiny molecules that make up sweat. This process of breaking down sweat causes a pungent odor.
Your body has another type of sweat gland called apocrine glands. These glands are in areas of your body where you have hair follicles, like your armpits and genital areas. The fluid that these glands produce is thicker than the fluid from eccrine glands. When this fluid meets bacteria on your skin, it produces body odor.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Excessive sweating due to hyperhidrosis can be a short- or long-term condition that can be challenging to manage. Concern over how someone may react to your symptoms (like shaking your sweaty hand) may make you want to withdraw from social situations. There’s no cure for hyperhidrosis, but help is available. Your provider may recommend a prescription-strength antiperspirant or medications to lessen your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/01/2023.
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