The Causes of Excessive Sweating

If you’ve noticed you seemed to be sweating excessively lately, you are probably wondering why. Excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, can be an embarrassing problem to deal with. Your excessive sweating may be a short-term problem caused by an underlying condition or it could be a lifelong struggle that can affect you mentally as well as physically and emotionally.

While sweating is a bodily function, and one that is useful for thermoregulation, for some people, it’s much more than that. Sometimes, sweat can be extreme, embarrassing, and uncomfortable. There are two to four million sweat glands in your body, and with that many overactive sweat glands a body can produce a lot of moisture.[1]

People with hyperhidrosis don’t have more sweat glands than other people do, but they are more active, leading to an increased amount of sweat.

If you’re concerned about how much sweat you’re experiencing and the potential reasons for it, then take a look at some common causes behind this condition.

Facts About Hyperhidrosis

Approximately 5 percent of the population suffers from this condition that causes excessive sweating, but that’s only the reported estimate. Some experts believe the actual percentage is much higher than that – with some estimates at 12 percent in the U.S. [1]

While hyperhidrosis isn't dangerous, it can be a difficult problem to deal with because it can affect every area of your life, including:

  • Your relationships.
  • Your anxiety levels.
  • Your work and productivity.
  • Which leisure activities you pursue.
  • Your self-esteem.

How you get hyperhidrosis depends on the type of hyperhidrosis you have. There are two main types of hyperhidrosis:

Hyperhidrosis can cause sweating all over the body, including in the underarms, hands, feet , face, scalp, under the breasts, and the groin. Some people with hyperhidrosis sweat in only one area, while others sweat in more than one location. The most common areas hyperhidrosis affects are the hands, underarms, and feet. Primary focal hyperhidrosis causes palmar (hand) hyperhidrosis as well as plantar (foot), axillary, and excessive sweating of the head and face. It is also important to note that some people can experience excessive sweating that develops from trauma. This type of sweating is called compensatory sweating when it results from endoscopic thoracic surgery. Another type, called gustatory sweating develops after trauma to the face and it causes people to sweat while eating.

Hyperhidrosis can have a huge impact on the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Primary focal hyperhidrosis, for instance, tends to kick in right around the teenage years for many sufferers. That can amplify the emotional turmoil teenagers are already feeling.

There are treatments to help with the condition though. They include:

Causes of Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis

Secondary hyperhidrosis can be a sign of a serious medical condition. When you experience several health symptoms at the same time, like diaphoresis and pallor, their cause needs to be determined quickly to make sure that the underlying issues do not progress. Here are some examples of diseases that can cause excessive sweating:


Your thyroid, the little butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck, can be underactive or it can be overactive.

If it is underactive it’s known as hypothyroidism. That means your thyroid isn’t making enough hormones for your body. This condition causes many symptoms both internally and externally, including fatigue, dry skin, puffy face, weight gain, thinning hair, high cholesterol, and muscle aches.

On the flip side, if your thyroid is overactive, it’s known as hyperthyroidism. That means your body is producing too much of the hormone thyroxine.

Excessive sweating is one of the symptoms you’ll have with this condition. Other symptoms may include weight loss, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, and irritability.

If you suspect hyperthyroidism is the reason for your excessive sweating, you can be tested for it with a blood test that looks at your levels of TSH and thyroxine. There are treatments available for hyperthyroidism, including medication, surgery, and radioactive iodine. [1]


If you’ve started to sweat excessively since making a medication change, you might want to investigate it further. While most medications don’t produce sweating as a side effect, some common medications can cause hyperhidrosis. But not everyone who takes a certain medication will be affected in that way. So even if that medicine is known to cause sweating, you might take it and be perfectly fine with no sweating in sight.

Some examples of medications that may make you sweat include:

  • Some high blood pressure medicines.
  • Certain psychiatric drugs.
  • Medicines for dry mouth.
  • Certain antibiotics.
  • Various supplements.

If you are experiencing excessive sweating and you suspect a medication, you can talk to your doctor about whether there’s a substitute medication you could try instead. [1],[4]


Hyperhidrosis itself is not bad for your health, but it can be a sign of an underlying problem. A serious cause of excessive sweating can be certain kinds of cancer. Although doctors can’t say for certain why excessive sweating occurs with particular cancers, it can.

Some of the kinds of cancer that might cause excessive sweating include:

  • Liver.
  • Leukemia.
  • Mesothelioma.
  • Bone cancer.
  • Lymphoma.

Other cancers can also cause heavy sweating, if they are in an advanced stage.

On the flip side, it has also been rumored that one of the primary treatments for hyperhidrosis, aluminum antiperspirants can cause cancer - but that is simply untrue.

Glucose Issues

People who have problems with glucose levels that drop too low can also have excessive sweating. That includes diabetics, no matter which kind they suffer from – Type 1, Type 2, or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

It can also happen to people who suffer from hypoglycemia, which is a condition that causes low blood sugar.

With glucose issues, the excessive sweating will correct itself once your blood sugar stabilizes.


This cause of excessive sweating obviously only applies to women. Up to 75 percent of women going through menopause and even some in perimenopause say they experience hot flashes, heavy sweating, and night sweats.

Experts believe excessive sweating during menopause happens because of dropping estrogen levels.


Extreme anxiety can cause heavy sweating, and often, people with hyperhidrosis also experience anxiety. If you’re worried or anxious about something, like delivering a public speech, hyperhidrosis symptoms can become exacerbated. This phenonemon is also known as stress sweating.

Obesity or Overeating

Not all overweight people sweat excessively but being obese can cause you to sweat heavily. If you’ve noticed your sweat ramping up as you’ve gained a few pounds, it may be one of the causes for it.

If you’re carrying excess weight and think it might be causing your hyperhidrosis, you can try to control your weight through diet and exercise and see if that helps.

Parkinson’s Disease

When you have Parkinson’s disease, your excessive sweat may manifest when the drugs you take for your condition begin to wear off. If you have Parkinson’s you might also notice you’re more prone to sweating at night.

Rheumatoid arthritis

With rheumatoid arthritis, you may not always experience excessive sweating. You might find you have severe sweating at certain times, while it seems to go away at other times.

In addition to excessive sweating, some of the other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain and swelling.
  • Fatigue.
  • Stiffness.
  • Flu-like symptoms.


Certain infections may cause excessive sweating, such as endocarditis, which is an infection that attacks the inner lining of the heart.

Another one that tends to cause extreme sweat is tuberculosis. It tends to cause heavy night sweats in particular that seem to completely drench your clothes.


Gout is listed as a cause for hyperhidrosis. Gout is caused by having too much uric acid in the blood. That uric acid forms crystals under your skin and in your joints.

The telltale symptoms of gout, in addition to heavy sweating, include swelling, pain, and tender joints.


Pregnancy is a common cause of heavy sweating, particularly in late pregnancy as your body has to adjust to the new load it’s carrying. If you’re pregnant and notice your sweat has been soaking through your clothes lately, there is no cause for alarm. For many women, this is a normal part of pregnancy.

Your excessive sweating in this case should resolve shortly after you give birth. [1],[4]

How To Handle Excessive Sweating

If you’ve noticed an increase lately when it comes to how much sweat you’re putting out, pay attention to your body and note if you notice any other symptoms that accompany the sweating. It is a good idea to learn everything you might need to know about hyperhidrosis and it’s possible causes in your body.

If you’ve always been a heavy sweater, you may have primary focal hyperhidrosis. The treatments listed above in this article may give you some some ideas for how to manage your sweat. There are many strategies to manage your hyperhidrosis at home or use alternative methods to treat symptoms.

But if excessive sweating is a new or recent situation for you, look at the list of possible conditions that might be causing it. If you’re concerned you might have an underlying medical condition, it might be wise to check in with your doctor to hear their opinion about what you should do next.

While many causes of excessive sweating are harmless, some should be further investigated and possibly managed by a doctor.

  1. Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Amsterdam: Elsevier Pub. Co., 2014. Retrieved
  2. Nordqvist, C. (2017, December 21). Hyperhidrosis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Retrieved May 14, 2018, from
  3. Kamudoni, P., Mueller, B., Halford, J., Schouveller, A., Stacey, B., & Salek, M. (2017, June 8). The impact of hyperhidrosis on patients' daily life and quality of life: A qualitative investigation. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from
  4. Symposium on Anticholinergic Drug and Brain Functions in Animals,and Man. (1968). In Bradley P. B. (Ed.), Anticholinergic drugs and brain functions in animals and man Amsterdam, New York etc.] Elsevier Pub. Co., 1968. Retrieved
Subscribe to get new hyperhidrosis tips delivered to your inbox every month!
Limited Time Offer: Free Shipping on all US orders