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If you are like millions of other people across the globe, you know what it is like to face uncontrollable, embarrassing underarm perspiration. Many people have experienced embarrassing underarm sweating.

It was the cause of immense discomfort in social situations, pungent odor and the ruining of countless shirts and expensive suits. However, do we really understand why we must sweat and how could we stop this excessive sweating, as well how could we prevent sweating odor.

What is sweating?

Sitting in the heat of the sun, working out at the gym, giving a presentation at work are all activities that can make you sweat. It is natural and healthy to sweat under these conditions. In fact, when you are exposed to heat, exercising strenuously or under extreme emotional stress, you may lose several quarts of fluid in perspiration. A pea-sized bead of sweat can cool nearly 1 liter of blood one degree Fahrenheit. However, sometimes the complex mechanism of perspiration goes awry, resulting in either excessive perspiration called hyperhidrosis, or little or no perspiration called anhidrosis. Excessive sweating can be embarrassing and may sometimes signal some more serious health problem. Anhidrosis is also potentially life-threatening. Yet for most people, sweating is simply a minor nuisance, while the odor that sometimes occurs when you sweat is probably more upsetting. Although perspiration is basically odorless, it can take on an unpleasant smell when it comes into contact with bacteria on the skin. If you find this offensive, you are not alone, because Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on antiperspirants and deodorants.

Signs and symptoms

Healthy people sweat, but when, where and how much varies widely, and there are some factors that cause most people to sweat more. These factors include exercise, especially strenuous exercise, hot weather, nervousness, anxiety or stress. Perspiration that’s triggered by emotion is most likely to occur on face, underarms, palms and the soles of your feet. However, how much you sweat and even the way your sweat smells can be influenced by your mood. It could also be influenced by certain foods and beverages, some drugs and medical conditions, and even by hormone levels. What is more, unfair as it seems, some people inherit a tendency to sweat heavily, especially on soles and palms. Because it is almost impossible to define normal sweating, try to learn what is normal for you, which is going to help you pinpoint any unusual changes.

Causes for excessive sweating

Skin has two types of sweat glands, those are eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas abundant in hair follicles, such as scalp, underarms and genitals. Human being have between 2 million and 5 million eccrine sweat glands. When your body temperature rises, your autonomic nervous system stimulates these glands to secrete fluid onto the surface of your skin. Then it cools your body as it evaporates. This fluid is composed mainly of water and salt, or sodium chloride, and contains trace amounts of other electrolytes. Those are substances that help regulate the balance of fluids in your body. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, secrete a fatty sweat directly into the tubule of the gland, so when you are under emotional stress, the wall of the tubule contracts and the sweat is pushed to the surface of your skin where bacteria begin breaking it down. Most often, it is the bacterial breakdown of apocrine sweat that causes a strong sweating odor. A number of factors can affect how much someone sweat and even the way that sweat smells. Certain foods, drugs or medical conditions can cause excessive sweating, whereas drugs or conditions may interfere with human ability to perspire normally.

What is excessive sweating

Hyperhidrosis is problem when some people sweat more than others for no apparent reason. However, you already know that some factors may make you sweat heavily. These include heredity, since some people inherit a tendency to sweat excessively, especially on their palms and the soles of their feet. Certain foods and beverages, or drinking hot beverages and those that contain caffeine or alcohol can make you sweat and eating spicy foods can do the same thing for excessive sweating. Drugs that can cause excessive sweating include some antipsychotic medications used to treat mental disorders. Excessive sweating could cause Morphine and excess doses of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. Overdoses of analgesics such as Aspirin and acetaminophen also can cause intense sweating. Women going through menopause may experience hot flashes, which is a rise in temperature accompanied by sweating and a feeling of intense heat, due to a drop in estrogen levels. Some menopausal women may also be awakened at night by soaking sweats followed by chills as consequnece of hormonal imbalance. Low levels of male hormones are also important where men with low levels of the male hormone testosterone or a condition known as hypogonadism. It causes reduced functioning of the testicles, and these patients also can have hot flashes. Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia occurs when the level of sugar in your blood drops below a certain level. It is most common in people with diabetes who take insulin or oral medications that enhance the action of their insulin. Early signs and symptoms include sweating, shakiness, weakness, hunger, dizziness or nausea. Some people may develop low blood sugar after eating, especially if they have had stomach or intestinal surgery. In rare cases your body may produce too much of the pancreatic hormone insulin, leading to low sugar in the blood. A fever occurs when your temperature rises above its normal range, so you may have a fever with many types of bacterial and viral infections. When your body temperature finally begins to return to normal, known as breaking of the fever, you may sweat profusely. That is your body’s way of dissipating the excess heat. Shaking chills after the fever are your body’s attempt to raise its core temperature, while repeated episodes of fever followed by sweating may indicate a serious infection or other illness. Overactive thyroid could also be the problem because sometimes the thyroid gland produces excess amounts of the hormone thyroxine. This can cause a number of signs and symptoms, including weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness and increased sensitivity to heat, and it may also cause you to perspire much more than normal. Heart attack occurs when a loss of blood supply damages or destroys part of your heart muscle, with the signs and symptoms of pressure, fullness or squeezing pain in chest that lasts for a few minutes or pain that extends beyond chest to shoulder, arm or back. Patient will also experience shortness of breath and intense sweating. If you experience these symptoms, get immediate medical care, because every minute counts after a heart attack. Leukemia and lymphoma can produce unusual sweating patterns and excessive sweating.

When to seek medical advice

See your doctor if you suddenly begin to sweat more than usual or experience night sweats for no apparent reason, because cold sweat is usually your body’s response to a serious illness, anxiety or severe pain. Seek immediate medical attention for a cold sweat, especially if you have symptoms of lightheadedness, chest or stomach pains. You should also talk to your doctor if you notice a change in body odor, because it may be a sign of certain medical conditions. A fruity smell, for example, may be a sign of diabetes and an ammonia smell could indicate liver or common kidney disease. In addition, rare condition known as fish-odor syndrome or trimethylaminuria causes an odor similar to rotting fish. People with fish-odor syndrome have a defective gene that prevents them from metabolizing trimethylamine, which is a natural byproduct of the digestion of foods such as saltwater fish, eggs and liver.

Read More: Hyperhidrosis: Excessive Sweating Disorder


For some people who sweat excessively, the answer may be simple. The most commonly, that is an over-the-counter antiperspirant used on the hands and feet as well as the underarms. Antiperspirants block your sweat ducts with aluminum salts, thereby reducing the amount of perspiration that reaches the skin. Deodorants, which can eliminate odor but not perspiration, turn your skin acidic. That means it makes your skin less attractive to bacteria. Although you may have heard stories linking antiperspirants and breast cancer, there is no evidence of such a link. Antiperspirants can cause irritation or even contact dermatitis, in form of a red, swollen, and itchy skin. In fact, antiperspirants are the cosmetic product most associated with skin irritation, but deodorants, especially herbal or crystal deodorants, may be less irritating for most people. If these products are not strong enough, your doctor may suggest a prescription antiperspirant, but for more severe problems with sweating, the doctor may recommend you some other treatments.

  • Iontophoresis is procedure where dermatologist uses a battery-powered device to deliver a low current of electricity to the affected area. Although iontophoresis is painless and quite safe, it may be no more effective than any topical antiperspirant.
  • Botulinum toxin is the same product that helps smooth facial wrinkles by paralyzing certain muscles. Researchers have discovered that Botox injections are also an effective way to treat severe hyperhidrosis. It is done by blocking the nerves that trigger the sweat glands, but the fact is that Botox is not a cure. It may take several injections to achieve the desired results, the treatment can be painful, and the results last only around four months. In addition, although Botox stops sweating, it does not prevent problematic body odor.