Breaking a sweat is usually associated with a good workout. But if you're 40 or older and you notice your sheets are drenched when you wake up, or your palms are always sweaty, you could have an underlying medical condition.
Yes, you could also be entering perimenopause, as women can start to experience such hot flash-inducing hormonal fluctuations anytime in their 40s. The changes that cause night sweats often last between 4 and 8 years.
"All night sweats are not hormonal," though, stresses Dr Lauren Streicher. "There are other reasons why women have unpredictable or inappropriate sweating."
If your perspiration patterns have changed, Streicher recommends you check in with your doctor to see what's going on. One of these 6 things could explain the sudden onset of excessive sweating:
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Your medications have side effects.
"There's a very long list of drugs that can potentially cause sweating," Streicher says. Pain medications, heart and blood pressure drugs, and antidepressants are among the prescriptions that count sweating as a side effect—and women over 40 are often prescribed these. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 23% of women in their 40s and 50s use antidepressants, a higher percentage than any other age group of men or women. And 22% of all people who take antidepressants sweat excessively due to their medication, says the International Hyperhidrosis Society. If you suspect your meds could be to blame, refer to this list of drugs that may cause sweating.
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You have diabetes.
Low blood sugar is one of the most common causes of sweating, says Dr Hratch Karanoukian, who specialises in hyperhidrosis, or excess sweating. Not all cases of low blood sugar mean you have diabetes, but you are at additional risk for the condition by the time you reach your mid-40s. If you're not getting enough exercise and carry too much weight around your middle, there’s an even greater chance that you’ll become insulin resistant and develop type 2 diabetes—not to mention being overweight can make you sweat more heavily.
By taking steps to overhaul your health, you can stabilise your glucose levels and dial back the excessive sweating.
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Your thyroid is out of whack.
Hyperthyroidism (or an overactive thyroid) speeds up your metabolism, and can cause weight loss, an irregular heartbeat and excessive sweating. Thyroid disorders that begin when women are around 40 can cause menopausal symptoms and even hasten the onset of menopause. Watch for these 16 other signs that could mean your thyroid is out of whack.
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You have an infection.
"Infections may not be obvious," Streicher says. "Someone may have tuberculosis and not know it, and that's how it manifests itself: in sweating." Though also rare, osteomyelitis, a bone infection that can affect the vertebrae or pelvis in adults, may also trigger excessive sweating. Bacterial infections can also cause endocarditis, or inflammation of the heart valves, and night sweating is a common symptom of this condition.
You have a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders can also cause you to wake up with drenched sheets. Sweating a lot is a common sign of sleep apnea, which causes the obstruction of your airway when you sleep and slows—or, in severe cases, even stops—breathing. While the condition is more common in men than women, a woman’s risk for sleep apnea increases as she moves toward menopause, and her symptoms may be different from a man’s, says the National Sleep Foundation.
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You have cancer.
In rare cases, night sweats can be an early sign of lymphoma, Streicher says. More than 32,000 women are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma each year, and the risk increases as you age. Other symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, chest pain and trouble breathing, so if you notice any of these signs, make an appointment to see your doctor to rule out cancer.
First published: 17 Jun 2017