What causes night sweats?

Night sweats are common is women who are going through perimenopause and menopause. Perimenopause is a normal, natural phase of a woman’s life. During this time, a woman’s ovaries produce less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and menstrual periods become irregular. The low or changing levels of estrogen in particular are the cause of night sweats.

Perimenopause usually happens between ages 40 and 50. It is the transition step before menopause. A woman has reached menopause when she hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. The average age of menopause is 51.

Are perimenopause and menopause the only causes of night sweats?

No. Night sweats can occur for a variety of reasons and can occur in both women and men. Other health conditions in which night sweats are seen include:

  • Infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Colds, flu, fever
  • Bacterial infections, including endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of the heart), osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone/bone marrow), pyogenic abscess (pus in the liver)
  • Hormonal diseases, including overactive thyroid, diabetes, endocrine tumors
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol, heroin, cocaine
  • Hyperhidrosis (the body produces too much sweat without any known medical cause)
  • Neurologic disorders, including autonomic dysreflexia, autonomic neuropathy (damage to autonomic nerves), syringomyelia (cyst in the spinal cord), stroke
  • Panic disorder, anxiety
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, a digestive disease)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (a sleep disorder)
  • Cancer, including leukemia (blood and bone marrow cancer) and lymphoma (blood cell cancer)
  • Side effects of cancer treatments, including aromatase inhibitors, tamoxifen, opioids, steroids
  • Side effects of other medications, including some antidepressants and diabetes medications, steroids, acetaminophen, aspirin, and high blood pressure drugs

Women who experience other than menopause-related night sweats typically have other symptoms, as well. Only your doctor can determine the cause of your night sweats. Almost all causes are treatable. If you have ongoing night sweats, see your doctor.

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