Understanding Overactive Sweat Glands

Signs of Overactive Sweat Glands
If you're drenched in public, it'll be hard to concentrate on anything else.
If you're drenched in public, it'll be hard to concentrate on anything else.

Unwanted sweating does not a medical condition make. Most of us wish we could sweat less than we do -- thus the wide selection and popularity of antiperspirants.

And if antiperspirant cures your "sweating problem," you probably don't have hyperhidrosis.

If, on the other hand, you sweat so profusely you have to change your clothing a few times a day, carry extra socks and piles of napkins everywhere you go, and dread social interaction because you could end up drenched in public, you may have overactive sweat glands.

There are actually two different versions of the condition: primary (focal) and secondary (generalized). Secondary hyperhidrosis is a symptom of another medical condition or a side effect of a medical treatment. For instance, excessive sweating can result from obesity or certain antidepressant medications. Sweating associated with secondary hyperhidrosis is typically widespread over entire regions of the body, and often occurs during sleep.

Primary hyperhidrosis is a medical condition unto itself; it's the core of the problem. It affects small areas, commonly the hands, feet, face or underarms, where sweat glands are concentrated. The sweating usually slows down in the evening and then stops during sleep. If you have at least one instance of extreme sweating per week, and it happens while you're awake, you could have primary hyperhidrosis.

Besides disruptive episodes of excessive sweating and the accompanying social and emotional issues that can go along with that, other possible signs of overactive sweat glands include:

  • Chronic skin irritation
  • Skin maceration (when skin turns white and easily comes off)
  • Chronic bacterial or fungal infections
  • Bathing more than once a day due to sweating
  • Having to replace shoes and clothing frequently because of sweat-related odor and staining

A doctor can help determine whether heavy sweating does indeed rise to the level of a medical condition (the International Hyperhidrosis Society, or IHHS, recommends a dermatologist). If hyperhidrosis is the diagnosis, meaning you do sweat more than you need to, one obvious question is: Why?

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