Formula Medical Group
Apple Valley, CA

James Krider, MD

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Sweating - perspiring

Sweating, or perspiring, is part of the body's temperature control system. When the body is overly heated, it produces sweat. Evaporation of sweat from the skin's surface causes cooling. Thus, sweating is a normal and desirable function when the weather is hot or during strenuous exercise, which produces body heat.

Sweating also occurs when a person is anxious, afraid, or under other emotional stress. Even eating hot, spicy foods can produce perspiration. In all of these circumstances, sweating is no cause for concern. Occasionally, however, sweating results from a serious health problem.

Causes of sweating

Profuse sweating, chills, fever, and swollen lymph nodes are common early signs of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Early diagnosis is important, since a variety of new treatments are proving effective in alleviating symptoms and perhaps prolonging survival.

An asthma attack usually manifests itself with difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing. There also may be profuse sweating.

Episodes of sweating accompany certain cancers. For ex­ample, waking at night drenched in sweat may indicate Hodgkin's disease. Other symptoms include weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, weakness, and general malaise. Prostate cancer also can cause excessive sweating.

Cluster headaches
This is a throbbing type of headache with pain that radiates to an eye and to the nose, mouth, or neck. They tend to occur one after another, or in clusters. Blood vessels on the affected side of the head bulge out, the face is pale, and sweating occurs.

Cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease affecting the glands that produce saliva, mucus, and sweat. Abnormally salty sweat is a characteristic symptom, along with chronic coughing, wheezing, slow growth, and frequent bouts of pneumonia.

The hands contain an abundance of sweat glands.

The hands contain an abundance of sweat glands.

People with diabetes may experience insulin shock if too much insulin is injected. This causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycemia. The reaction comes on rapidly and can lead to coma and even death. Sweating is a symptom of an insulin reaction, along with hunger, pallor, trembling, rapid heartbeat, weakness, and mood swings.

A high fever and sweating, along with chills, headaches, muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue are all symptoms of flu, a highly infectious disease that occurs in epidemics.

Heart attack
Sweating accompanied by chest pains and other symptoms may be a warning sign of a heart attack. The pain may be intense or dull, and is often described as crushing. Other warning signs include shortness of breath, fainting, nausea, and vomiting.

Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are responsible for excruciating intermittent pain in the kidney area that may radiate to the groin. Other symptoms include bloody urine, chills, vomiting, and sweating.

High fever and drenching sweats, alternating with teeth-chattering chills, are classic symptoms of malaria. Other symptoms include severe headache, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid pulse, and rapid breathing.

Among the most common symptoms of menopause are hot flushes accompanied by profuse sweating. Frequently, a woman will waken during the night drenched in sweat. Menopausal women may also experience chills, headaches, anxiety, and numerous other symptoms.

Overactive thyroid
An overactive thyroid produces excessive thyroid hormone, resulting in a speeding up of metabolic activity. Common symptoms include an enlarged thyroid gland, increased nervousness, emotional outbursts, excessive sweating, inability to tolerate heat, weight loss, hyperactivity, weakness, and irregular heartbeats.

Rheumatic heart disease
Sweating and fever are common symptoms of rheumatic heart disease, along with joint problems and a rapid heartbeat, weight loss (or, in a child, failure to grow properly), and fatigue.

Advice about sweating

  • Drink plenty of liquid in hot weather to replace fluid lost by sweating.
  • A lukewarm shower or tub bath is more effective for cooling off than a cold shower.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest hours of the day.
  • A person who is hot and has red, dry skin but is not sweating may be suffering from heat stroke. This is an emergency that requires
    immediate treatment.
This article was last reviewed November 14, 2005 by Dr. James Krider.
Reproduced in part with permission of Home Health Handbook.
Cancer, prostate
Cystic fibrosis
Diabetes, type 1
Headache, cluster
Heart attack, acute
Hodgkin's disease
Kidney stones
Med's, diabetes
Rheumatic heart disease
Thyroid, overactive

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