There’s nothing wrong with working up a little bit of a sweat —perspiration, after all, is perfectly natural. But if you notice you’re dripping wet rather than just vaguely damp after even the slightest exertions, or after doing nothing at all, you may be somewhat concerned. And if you find yourself asking “why do I sweat so much?” on a regular basis, it might be a sign that something is amiss.
The overarching medical term for extreme sweating is hyperhidrosis. As Dr John Whyte, the chief medical officer of WebMD explains, “Hyperhidrosis is abnormally excessive sweating due to the fact that your sweat glands aren’t functioning properly and don’t turn off.” And it’s not necessarily uncommon—as many as 3 in every 100 Australians have excessive sweating.
“Depending on the type (focal sweating in one or a few areas vs. sweating all over the body) and the severity of hyperhidrosis, it can sometimes be a sign of internal medical problems—such as an overactive thyroid or low blood sugar—and thus it is important to be examined by a doctor,” Dr Shadi Kourosh adds.
Ahead, experts explain why you might be excessively perspiring, and offer some solutions to scale back the sweat.
Reasons why you might be sweating more than usual
Those with various types of diabetes may suffer from low blood sugar from time to time, which increased sweating can be an indication of dropping blood sugar. Moreover, Dr Whyte says, “Diabetes causes nerve damage, and some of that damage can be to nerves that control sweat glands,” in turn causing excessive sweating. Finally, those who take certain medications for diabetes management may find increased perspiration a side effect of their prescription.
Thyroid disease may experience heightened sweating, as the conditions cause disruption to hormones and temperature regulation, notes Dr Whyte. “The thyroid gland affects many of our body’s processes such as our energy level, metabolism and body heat and temperature,” Dr Kourosh explains. “Change in thyroid hormone levels will confuse the body into producing either too much heat or energy or not enough. For example, when a person’s thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), they may experience fatigue or low energy, weight gain, and feel cold when others in the same room feel fine. Meanwhile if the thyroid is overproducing thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), the body may overheat leading to increased sweating.”
“In menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels change, which impacts your internal thermostat,” Dr. Whyte says. As your body adapts to its new sense of temperature regulation, you may experience periods of excessive sweating. As a whole, Dr Kourosh notes, “Changing hormone levels can affect body temperature and sweating. When female hormones change during menopause, they can lead to hot flashes.”
During pregnancy, there is a pronounced increase in the production of estrogen, as well as other hormone changes, Dr Kourosh says. This, in turn, can actually raise your body temperature, and is enough to set off more pronounced sweating, especially during the early days of a pregnancy.
When you’re feeling anxious, your body’s stress response is triggered, which drives activity in your nervous system. This can trigger your sweat glands to overreact, Dr Whyte explains, which causes you to sweat.
How can you stop sweating so much?
Generally speaking, says Dr Cederquist, if you’re noticing a significant and abnormal increase in your sweat production, you’ll want to consult a doctor. For the slightly less pronounced over-sweating condition, over-the-counter and prescription-strength antiperspirants may help, as can medicated wipes. Opting for antiperspirants with aluminum can be particularly helpful, says Dr Whyte.
“If a health condition or medication is the culprit, addressing the core issue often alleviates the excessive sweating,” Dr Cederquist continues. These core issues would include the aforementioned thyroid conditions, diabetes, or hormonal changes.
If, however, your sweating is more extreme, oral medications, neuromodulator injections, treatment devices using ionized water and electricity or microwave energy on the sweat glands, and in severe cases even surgery, can be an option, says Dr Kourosh. “In each case, it is first important to see a doctor with expertise in the condition to understand the cause or combination of causes that might be affecting a person and create a treatment regimen that would be best suited,” she adds.
Is it healthy to sweat a lot?
The short answer? It depends. That’s largely because the definition of “a lot” varies from body to body, and can be based on genetics. Even eating spicy foods can cause perspiration, says Dr Whyte. Some people will naturally perspire more than others from any one of these stimulants, but that doesn’t mean that they’re over-sweating.
No two people will sweat the same amount as a result of the same activity or environment, experts say. “The amount that people sweat can vary greatly between individuals, and can be affected by several factors such as age, body size, muscle mass, health status, hormonal changes, fitness level, diet, as well as outside temperature, and humidity,” explains Dr Kourosh. Consequently, comparing how sweaty you are to the person next to you may not be the most effective measure of whether or not your perspiration levels are “normal.”
The bottom line
“If you are noticing a significant and abnormal increase in your sweat production, first consult your physician,” says Dr Cederquist. “Your doctor will help determine if an underlying medical condition and/or medication is causing you to sweat more. If a health condition or medication is the culprit, addressing the core issue often alleviates the excessive sweating.” From there, your doctor could recommend one of many treatments for excessive sweating.
So if you find yourself going through deodorant with a little bit more alacrity than you’d like, don’t panic. Not only are you far from alone, but a solution is likely well in reach.