Sweating while eating (or gustatory sweating) can be a distressing, and sometimes embarrassing problem for some people. Sweating is a natural function of the body, especially when ambient temperature is high, and the body tries to reduce body heat. This may also occur while eating, especially when consuming hot soup, spicy foods, or hot beverages. The hot food raises your body temperature and sets off your body's cooling mechanism in the form of perspiration. Gustatory sweating usually occurs on the face, scalp, forehead, neck, and chest soon after ingesting food.
A rare cause of gustatory sweating is damage to the nerve (called the auriculotemporal nerve) that goes to the large salivary gland near the cheek (the parotid gland). This nerve controls production of saliva by the parotid gland, and trauma to the nerve may result in sweating instead of salivating when you eat or just think of food. This condition is known as Frey syndrome, but the sweating usually occurs only on one side of the head.
Gustatory sweating may also be a rare complication of advanced diabetes mellitus. Other possible causes include Parkinson's disease, shingles, and cluster headache. However, in these cases, perspiration occurs on both sides of the head. One explanation for sweating while eating in diabetic patients is the abnormality in autonomic nervous system control (dysautonomia), which controls the production of sweat. It is usually associated with advanced diabetes, with one study showing that about 70% of diabetic patients with kidney problems and 36% of those with peripheral nerve problems also had gustatory sweating.
No specific test is used to confirm the diagnosis of diabetic gustatory sweating, but the presence of increased moisture that appears during or after eating and the distribution of sweating, which is restricted to the patient's head and neck region, provide supporting evidence to the diagnosis.
Treatment for Gustatory Sweating
If the cause of sweating while eating is some underlying disease, treating the illness may help solve your problem. Otherwise, sweating can be reduced by using over-the-counter or prescription-strength antiperspirants. Just be sure to test the antiperspirant on a small area of skin for irritation. The International Hyperhidrosis Society recommends applying a soft-solid formulation for your face and around the hairline.
Oral treatments include anticholinergic agents, such as scopolamine, propantheline, oxybutynin, and Glycopyrrolate, which have been shown to improve symptoms. However, potential adverse reactions, such as mouth dryness, constipation, and confusion, as well as concurrent illnesses limit their use. Recently, reports of success using topical Glycopyrrolate lotion applied to the forehead and face have shown promising potential for treatment.
Another medication that has been used to treat gustatory sweating is clonidine (Catapres), but despite some success, its use is also limited by side effects which include dry mouth and lowering of blood pressure.
Another solution is getting Botox injections to control excessive facial sweating (hyperhidrosis). If you are interested in this type of long-lasting treatment (four to six months), find an experienced dermatologist who treats patients with hyperhidrosis.
Still have something to ask?
Get help from other members!