Imagine, you are sitting with your friends, chit-chatting and having fun with them and suddenly
you are sweating heavily without any apparent reason. It will be a hassle for you and your
friends. But sometimes it is more than just an irritation. It’s a medical condition known as
hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating. It can be due to some medications or some underlying
Hyperhidrosis is a condition where person’s underarms or palms or soles experience excessive
sweat without any reasons like hot temperature or exercise. In most of the cases it is harmless but
it can make that person more anxious and socially awkward. Due to this, such people keep
avoiding social gatherings or hand shake or even going close to their children.
Causes of hyperhidrosis
Eccrine sweat glands are the major sweat glands of our body (present in large amount in our
soles and palms). Sometimes, these glands work overtime without any reason and keep secreting
Moreover, reason for hyperhidrosis can be some neurologic, infectious, endocrine or other
Types of hyperhidrosis
Type of hyperhidrosis will help us to identify the actual reason for the same. Both the types of
hyperhidrosis are discussed below:
1. Primary focal hyperhidrosis (localized sweating):
It usually starts in childhood or adolescence. Although, it’s a medical condition but does
not cause any illness or harm to the person. Here, sweating occurs at some specific parts
of our body such as head, face, feet, hands, underarms; that’s why it is known as
localized hyperhidrosis. It may be hereditary; while some experts says that there can be
malfunction in some of our nerves, but we don’t have any evidence about such
2. Secondary hyperhidrosis (generalized sweating)
It causes sweating all over the body but it is not that common. This condition can be more
serious having some underlying medical reason behind this excessive sweating.
One obvious cause of this condition is excessive sweating at night.
Possible reasons for secondary hyperhidrosis:
Side effects of some drugs (psychiatric drug, antibiotics, blood pressure medications)
Some infections: HIV, malaria, TB
Signs you should see a doctor
Sweating accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, insomnia, cough, and increased thirst or urination.
Symptoms of sweating after using some drugs
Sudden changes in sweating amount
At first, doctor will ask some basic questions like: how is excessive sweat affecting his normal
life, is it affecting his relationships with others, how often he/she change their clothes due to
sweating, how often they take bath etc.
Doctor will try to identify some underlying causes by doing some blood and urine test
After that, to confirm hyperhidrosis, there are some diagnostic tests available:
Thermoregulatory sweat test: Here, they apply moisture sensitive powder to the skin. Powder will change its color due to excessive sweating at room temperature. This will help the doctor to know the severity of hyperhidrosis.
Starch iodine test: Iodine is applied on sweaty area. Then starch is sprinkled when iodine dries. If that area turns into dark blue color, person is suffering from excessive sweating.
Paper test: Special type of paper is used which is kept on sweaty area and then weighed. More the weight, more the sweat.
Sometimes, hyperhidrosis is so severe that it can be discomforting or embarrassing. It may affect
person’s emotional stability, personal relationships, career options and self-image. So there are
some treatments which can subside the symptoms.
Lasers that can target and kill underarm sweat glands.
Surgery to cut nerves that carry messages to sweat glands (only in severe cases)
Facts and Figures
Over 15 million people suffer from excessive sweating in U.S.
It can affect male and female equally.
65% of people suffers from underarm sweating
30-50% of people suffering from hyperhidrosis have family history
People can have hyperhidrosis whether they live in warm or cold environment.
So, sometimes it becomes a problem to many, but with the help of doctor one can ease their symptoms and can lead a normal life.
Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology
St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad