What are the most common causes of sweating and body odor?

Excessive sweating is called hyperhidrosis, and is defined as sweating even when the body does not need to be cooled. There are two types of hyperhidrosis:

Primary - not related to another medical condition

  • Person is generally healthy but has probably experienced heavy sweating since childhood or adolescence.
  • Excessive sweating may occur in just one or two areas of the body such as the palms, feet, underarms or forehead, while the rest of the body remains dry. Usually both sides of the body are affected equally.
  • Sweating usually begins when the person wakes up in the morning. Sweating through the night is not common.
  • It occurs at least once a week but in many people more often than this.

Secondary - there is an underlying cause of excessive sweating

  • Sweating occurs over the entire body or possibly on only one side of the body.
  • It usually begins as an adult.
  • It can be triggered by certain medications, food supplements, or consumption of garlic, caffeine, nicotine, spices, curries and other odorous foods.
  • Medical conditions include:

What causes sweating and body odor?

The exact cause of primary hyperhidrosis is not known. Even though stress and anxiety can trigger episodes of sweating, primary hyperhidrosis is not classified as being a mental condition. Some recent studies point to a genetic basis, as it appears to run in members of the same family.

Secondary hyperhidrosis is more common and is caused by a number of disorders, as noted above.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/09/2018.


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