did you know that some people sweat excessively but for a known reason? In this post, I am going to discuss some interesting facts about the causes of general hyperhidrosis, also known as secondary hyperhidrosis.
There are many people around the globe that sweat excessively. Some of them do not even think of it as an indicator of a condition that is medically known. In fact, I was one of them for years. I knew that I was sweating more than other people and found myself very often looking at other people’s armpits to see if anyone sweat as much as I did.
However, it never dawned on me that I had a condition called hyperhidrosis. Something that wasn’t causing any discomfort, just lots of embarrassment. It was many years later that I found out that I suffer from primary hyperhidrosis.
But today, I am not going to describe primary hyperhidrosis, I am going to talk about generalized hyperhidrosis causes, treatments and solutions.
Why Do We Sweat?
Most of the people on this planet sweat, some sweat a little and others sweat a lot. However, most of us do sweat for a good reason.
Our body has two types of sweat glands, of which the eccrine sweat glands are our body’s air conditioning system. When our body temperature goes up, our brain signals de eccrine sweat glands, which are all over our body, to produce sweat. With each drop of sweat from the eccrine sweat glands, a little heat is evaporated. After a short time, our body is cooled down again and kept at a correct temperature. This sweat is almost only water; therefore it does not smell bad.
The apocrine sweat glands, in contrast, are triggered by adrenaline. Whenever we get excited, anxious, nervous, panicky, or stimulated, our brain signals the apocrine glands to produce sweat. These sweat glands are located in our armpits, forehead, groin, palms, and feet. This sweat is a thicker fluid and contains lots of proteins and fats. Because of the contents of sweat from the apocrine glands, bacteria feasts on it and the breakdown causes the unpleasant odors.
So, on one hand, we sweat because we need to control our body temperatures, and on the other hand, we need to sweat so we can discharge energy produced by adrenaline.
What is Hyperhidrosis?
Now that we have the idea why we sweat, we need to look at the term hyperhidrosis itself.
As said, almost everybody sweats. Small babies start sweating from the day they are born. Since their sweat glands are not fully developed, they can sweat a lot in the first weeks of life.
In fact, the eccrine sweat glands are the only ones active during childhood. At the onset of puberty, the apocrine sweat glands will start to kick in. That is why children do not need to wear deodorant because they do not have the unpleasant odors that teenagers and adults have when sweating.
Hyperhidrosis is the term used to describe excessive sweating. There are people, like me, that sweat more than we need to sweat. A person suffering from hyperhidrosis can sweat at least 4 times the needed sweating per day.
The interesting thing though is that when somebody is suffering from hyperhidrosis, it does not mean that he will sweat excessively only during workout routines. Individuals suffering from hyperhidrosis sweat literally all the time, no matter what activity they are doing.
What Is Generalized Hyperhidrosis?
There are two types of hyperhidrosis, namely, primary and secondary hyperhidrosis (the latter one is also referred to as generalized hyperhidrosis).
While people suffering from primary hyperhidrosis sweat for no obvious reasons, people suffering generalized hyperhidrosis, do have a reason behind their sweating.
Also, when you suffer from primary hyperhidrosis, you live it from the onset of puberty until you die, while generalized hyperhidrosis can affect you for any given time at any given age.
Let’s look into common causes for generalized hyperhidrosis.
Generalized hyperhidrosis: 10+ Causes
There are a number of things that can cause generalized hyperhidrosis, but they all have one in thing in common: You sweat excessively because of an underlying health issue.
Yes, you heard me right, if you have started sweating excessively only lately, and you are not a teenager or in your early adulthood, it can be a strong indicator of things that are different in your body from what they were.
Let me describe some common causes for generalized hyperhidrosis.
Disclaimer: The information presented in the following paragraphs contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. It is not intended as advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this article as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
It is important to understand that generalized hyperhidrosis affects your whole body. When you have one of these medical conditions, your eccrine sweat glands are usually the more active ones, which is different when you suffer from primary hyperhidrosis. Only the apocrine sweat glands are excessively active when having primary hyperhidrosis.
1) Ovulation, Pregnancy, And Menopause
While this is considered among the generalized hyperhidrosis causes, it is not a medical condition that requires immediate attention.
However, women tend to sweat more when they are ovulating. The body temperature goes up when the egg is released from the ovaries, which is why women tend to have a slightly higher body temperature, which can result in extra sweating.
Sweating during the fertile days is probably not noticeable for many women, but some will see a difference in their sweating every month.
Pregnancy is a different story. Your vital organs have to work “double” to support the new life in the womb. Obviously, your heart rate will increase to pump the blood around the body and into your uterus to feed the baby and get all the necessary nutrients there. That triggers the brain to signal the sweat glands to produce sweat in order to reduce your body temperature.
Especially in the last 3 months of pregnancy women tend to sweat more than usual. I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first baby. Since I suffer from primary hyperhidrosis, I sweat so much and used to tend my clothes all over the place so they could dry and then go into the laundry.
It ever frustrated my wife, because she didn’t like all the clothes hanging around. When she was around seven months into the pregnancy, she told me that now she understood why I didn’t want my wet clothes directly in the laundry. She did sweat a lot more during pregnancy. I think she got a little idea what it is to sweat excessively.
As the baby grows in the womb, the load gets heavier and the harder a women’s body has to work to supply the baby’s needs.
And lastly, when a woman nears the menopause, she tends to sweat an awful lot more than she is used to. Although it is not a condition worth getting medical advice, the added stress and hormonal change that this represents to a woman, sweating can severely affect her self-image.
Even though these causes are positive to some degree, you know that they will go away once the underlying issue is gone. You can live with the hope to not have to sweat your whole life, as I do.
The only advice that I give you when sweating excessively during these phases in your life, especially pregnancy is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid the hot burning sun for extended periods. Avoid radical temperature changes as much as possible to protect your baby and yourself.
2) Heart Diseases
This is a no-brainer and among the most common causes of secondary hyperhidrosis. When you have heart disease you can expect to sweat a lot as a symptom.
I have often seen individuals suffering from any heart disease how they sweat an awful lot, which makes things more uncomfortable than they already are.
The apocrine glands become active because the body is under stress. Your heart has a hard time doing what it is supposed to do and it sends out signals to the brain that it is running out of energy, which is when your adrenaline kicks in, causing the apocrine glands to sweat.
Also, since your heart is doing the best it can to get the blood supply to all your blood vessels and carry nutrients to each and every cell, your body temperature will naturally increase, causing the eccrine glands to produce an extra amount of sweat.
There are, however, some interesting facts about this issue. Studies have found that generalized hyperhidrosis causes unpredictable sweating. Patients with heart disease tend to develop strange sweating patterns that are a sign of more serious problems.
For example, you might start to sweat only in your right or left armpit, or just the right or left side of your body. It gets even stranger because patients can sweat across the left and right side of the body, for example, sweat on the right side of your face, but in your left armpit.
Excessive sweating due to heart disease requires medical attention as soon as possible. Some people might have had heart disease for some time without knowing it. If these individuals have started seeing strange sweating in the recent weeks, it is a good sign that a doctors appointment should be very soon.
Some reports suggest that excessive sweating can be a sign of a heart attack.
I suggest that if excessive sweating has set in recently and you are older than 22, or you if have a child that is younger than 12, please do not wait to seek immediate attention. The ones that are in between that age range can have primary hyperhidrosis, which should be ruled out first by a doctor.
Fever is another type one of the generalized hyperhidrosis causes. When our body temperature rises above the desired 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, our eccrine sweat glands are immediately triggered to produce sweat to take the heat out of the body.
A fever occurs when our body is trying to get rid of bacteria or virus. Fever is a natural mechanism to kill harmful bacteria and virus by heating the body. When the infections are taking over and our antibodies cannot deal with them anymore, our brain is triggered to send signals all over to produce heat and wipe harmful bacteria or virus out.
This natural mechanism produces sweating! Although sweating because of a fever is not always necessary to treat, it is always good to observe how things progress. If things do not change, there might be an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics or other medications.
Therefore, if you or any of your family members get a fever, do not try to lower the fever. Instead, make sure that it does not go too high, but let the body do its job in fighting harmful bacteria and virus. And if sweating happens because of that, know that it is another natural mechanism to keep the temperature within the normal range.
4) Anxiety Disorders; Depression
As I said before, our apocrine sweat glands respond to stress. Panic, anxiety, fear, and other disorders in a person triggers the apocrine glands.
That is why people who suffer from behavioral disorders tend to have excessive sweating phases. The intensity of the disorder at any given moment will rule the intensity of sweating.
Why is that secondary hyperhidrosis? You might think that this is something an individual should be able to have control over. Whoever has had anxiety or depression, or has lived with someone that had it, will know that you are not in charge of your emotions when going through something that difficult.
There is absolutely nothing you can do in those moments; thus you need to seek help. Be it clinical depression, or whatever type of behavioral disorder, you need to seek help to get out of the “dark pit”, as I like to call it.
Once you get help and excessive sweating goes away, you will know that you did the right thing. There is no use in using antiperspirants or to clutch at any straw to keep symptoms away. Go to the root of the problem, and symptoms will go away.
In the modern western world, there is an abundance of food, but not only food, but there is also an abundance of unhealthy food. Sugar and flours have taken over and you can not find many products today that are natural, organic, and healthy.
For instance, walk into the nearest convenience store and go through all the labels on the products. You will be amazed at what you are buying daily! When I realized that, I became completely nostalgic.
I had to learn that most of the things on the shelves today are highly addicting, which is why we overeat and naturally we will gain weight.
There are a few restaurants that have healthy options when it comes to delicious food. Of course, most of them hide the real ingredients because the food industry has complete control, and sadly, politics participate in the fake campaigns for healthy eating.
Here is a quick example: Why would research centers worldwide offer recipes on their website that have beef as the primary ingredient? It is common sense that beef is not healthy for individuals suffering from diabetes.
Anyway, I got carried away by the frustration this causes me. Back to the topic: Skyrocketing obesity rates in our modern western world also increase generalized hyperhidrosis rates. Obesity makes us prone to far more problems and diseases than probably any other thing.
Because people that are obese have more fat rolls, more heat is generated and they sweat more.
I was obese for the past 15 years of my life. Measuring 6’6″, I weight around 290 pounds. Sometimes I thought that losing weight would stop my sweating problem. Nevertheless, it didn’t. After losing around 50 pounds, there was no difference in my sweating, which means I am suffering from primary hyperhidrosis.
I don’t know about you, but if you started sweating excessively after gaining too much weight, try losing weight, and see if you can get back to normal. If I would have a chance to not sweat excessively, I would take it. Too bad it is not working on me.
I mentioned diabetes in the previous section. People suffering from diabetes tend to sweat excessively as well.
It is the same problem that I have explained a few times in this article. Your body is working overtime when having certain diseases like diabetes.
This hard work causes the body to generate heat, which again causes sweating.
Of course, diabetes is another issue that needs medical attention and advice. If you can get your diabetes under control, or become free of it, your sweating should cease.
Another very common problem that is among generalized hyperhidrosis causes is hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism means that your thyroid glands are overboard with producing thyroxine. This can have many symptoms like an unexpected loss of weight, increase of heart rate, and of course secondary hyperhidrosis.
Hyperthyroidism is a hormonal imbalance that affects your whole body, but sadly, it is often not found. The problem with our thyroids is that they can mimic other health problems and you have a hard time to find out what the real problem is. For example, an increased heart rate could point to heart disease, but it is the thyroid glands that causes it.
The overactive thyroid glands can make excessive sweating look like primary hyperhidrosis when it really is among the generalized hyperhidrosis causes.
Especially if excessive sweating has set on later in your life, but there is no apparent problem, it would be helpful to check if your thyroid is working properly.
The problem is normally treatable with medication or by complete removal of the glands.
Although only around 1% of patients that use medication that causes excessive sweating, it can cause discomfort and embarrassment for those.
There is a series of medications and drugs that can cause individuals to sweat excessively when using them.
The most common medications that can have excessive sweating as a side effect are the following (this list is not exclusive):
- Pain relievers
- Antidepressants (neuropsychiatric)
- Some antibiotics and antivirals
- Medications for heart disease
If you want to learn more about medications that can cause excessive sweating, I recommend that you visit sweathelp.org, which offers a deeper understanding of the topic.
If you suppose that a medication is causing you to sweat, ask your doctor to switch the prescription to see if anything changes.
The list of generalized hyperhidrosis causes can be continued because there are many other diseases and conditions that can cause excessive sweating. There are:
- different kinds of cancers, including Leukemia
- certain types of tumors,
- different types of fevers like Malaria,
- pulmonary diseases, like Tuberculosis,
- nervous system diseases, like Parkinson’s Disease
- among others
All these can cause excessive sweating where clinical strength antiperspirants, surgical interventions, or botox injections are effective, but not the solution to the problem. Only if you suffer from primary hyperhidrosis, should you go for these options; otherwise, go to the root of the problem and seek the best possible solution.As seen, generalized hyperhidrosis, also known as secondary hyperhidrosis requires attention on behalf of the individual and in many cases immediate medical help.
I hope this informative article was helpful to you and gave you a little more insight into a large number of conditions that can affect a persons sweating.
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All the best,