Skip to main content

When Sweating Becomes a Medical Problem

When Sweating Becomes a Medical Problem

Fine-tune your understanding of hyperhidrosis and honor Hyperhidrosis Awareness Month throughout November. 


HhAMIt is no secret that sweating is how humans dissipate extra and potentially dangerous heat. Most of us also know that people have millions of sweat glands sprinkled all over their bodies and that the perspiration they produce is usually necessary and normal—until it’s not.

This November, dermatologists across the globe can help the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS) spread the word about the serious nature of excessive sweating while also improving your ability to help patients suffering from this disorder.

For many of your patients, recognizing that they have reached “extreme” sweating can be obvious. In fact, Dr Dee Anna Glaser, professor and vice chairman of the department of dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri and cofounder of the IHhS, has said, “Most people really do understand when they are sweating too much.” So, if your patient thinks they sweat too much, they probably do. Of course, when “gut” instincts are not enough, or if someone (such as a skeptical caregiver, colleague, or third-party payer) needs convincing that there is something serious going on, specific guidelines1 can be useful.

If you or your patient need help explaining the damaging nature of excessive sweating to others, here are some tips from the Society:

  1. Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is often visible, impactful sweating. Sweat may run or drip on the skin or clothes. Hair may become noticeably wet. Items may be dropped or damaged due to wetness. Affected individuals will likely feel physically uncomfortable as well as embarrassed, anxious, or ashamed.
  2. Individuals with excessive sweating often sweat four or five times more than what is considered “normal” or “expected” as a reaction to the weather, exercise, or stress. If, for example, a person is sitting in an air-conditioned office and still dripping with sweat, that is likely excessive sweating.
  3. People living with hyperhidrosis frequently say that their lives are dictated by their sweating. Clothing choices, cosmetic use, hairstyles, careers, hobbies, school activities, and social interactions can all be negatively affected by hyperhidrosis.
  4. To deal with their sweating, people with hyperhidrosis may carry supplies such as fans, towels, powders, antiperspirants, and extra clothing.
  5. Mental well-being and happiness are often affected by excessive sweating, with many patients reporting sadness, stress, decreased confidence, despair, depression, or anxiety related to their sweating.
  6. Further skin problems can result due to recurring dampness. Infections (bacterial or fungal) or skin breakdown may develop. Extreme sweating can also cause a person to feel cold or chilled. Slips, falls, and other accidents can also occur.

Unfortunately, many people experiencing excessive sweating are too embarrassed by their problem to seek help. This is counterproductive, because treatments and combinations of treatments can help to make life with extreme sweating more manageable and “normal.”2 

 It is also very important for anyone with new or different sweating patterns to talk to you or another clinician about their symptoms because, sometimes, sweating can be a symptom of another underlying medical condition that should be treated in its own right. This type of “sweating as a symptom” is called secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, and there are a number of different medical conditions and medications that can cause it. The key differences to note with secondary generalized hyperhidrosis include excessive sweating on larger or multiple areas of the body, sweating continuing while sleeping, and onset in adulthood.3

If, however, you have taken a detailed medical history, ruled out other reasons for the excessive sweating, and come to a diagnosis of “idiopathic” sweating,1 it is time to provide treatment. Treatment for excessive sweating is best when it is individualized and dynamic; often, some trial and error and tweaking will be necessary to find the right solutions for a patient’s unique situation. The Society provides a comprehensive list of currently available treatments for hyperhidrosis and best practices in their use online at SweatHelp.org.2 In addition to treatment algorithms, the IHhS also provides continuing medical education, training videos, and other extensive resources to empower clinicians to refine and grow their hyperhidrosis knowledge and techniques.4

Throughout November, dermatologists and the general public can learn more about excessive sweating from the Society’s Hyperhidrosis Awareness Month initiatives.5 This includes educational and practical information to help improve understanding and management of extreme, uncontrollable sweating. Hyperhidrosis Awareness Month communications also serve to inspire and motivate both health care providers and patients to connect and build community through social media, podcasts, poetry, and more. Highlights include: 

  • Tips to help deal with inevitable stress sweat and body odor6
  • Re-launch of the Clinician Finder, featuring improvements to the health care provider database that make it easier for patients with excessive sweating to find licensed, up-to-date hyperhidrosis medical care (register your practice at SweatHelp.org/Register)
  • Advice that can help save patients money on prescription and over-the-counter health expenses (whether those expenses are for hyperhidrosis or another condition)
  • A new episode of the Know Sweat podcasts to bring listeners inspiration, support, and an intimate look at the hyperhidrosis reality through the poetry of haiku

While hyperhidrosis is a serious sweating disorder that can lead to a wide range of negative impacts, there are ways to help patients. Treatment options have improved and expanded in recent years and, by working with a knowledgeable health care provider, most patients can find significant relief. It starts with building awareness and seeking help, the main goals of the IHhS during Hyperhidrosis Awareness Month and throughout the year. 

Hit "Next" to take the Hyperhidrosis Awareness Month Quiz!

Back to Top