Excessive facial sweating is can be embarrassing and cumbersome to those who have. It can be the result of intense heat or exercise, but if someone is sweating profusely from the face for no obvious reason they are most likely dealing with a form of hyperhidrosis. When excessive sweating affects the face and head it is medically known as craniofacial hyperhidrosis. Craniofacial sweating usually affects the forehead, scalp, nose, chin, and sometimes chin. This type of sweating is influenced by levels of anxiety and stress, but often has no obvious cause. There are three types of hyperhidrosis that are known to cause facial sweating: primary focal hyperhidrosis, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, and gustatory sweating (Frey’s syndrome).
Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis
Primary focal hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes people to sweat in excess of what is needed by their body. Specific body areas are usually affected, including the hands, feet, underarms, face, and occasionally other parts of the body. Approximately 2.8% of the US population has hyperhidrosis, so it is a relatively common condition. Of those who have primary focal hyperhidrosis only 22.8% of those have craniofacial hyperhidrosis - meaning they specifically have issues with facial sweating. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why primary focal hyperhidrosis occurs, but they suspect that it is caused by an overactive nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system innervates sweat glands it is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When the sympathetic system is activated at inappropriate times it can cause sweat glands to become overactive. Hyperhidrosis is suspected to be somewhat hereditary, although researchers don’t know the other factors that cause it to occur.
Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis
Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is usually characterized by sweating that occurs all over the body due to a causative agent. It usually begins suddenly during adulthood, as opposed to primary focal hyperhidrosis, which typically develops in adolescents. Sweating can occur on the face as a result of secondary hyperhidrosis, but if it is the cause of sweating a person with it would usually also experience sweating on other parts of the body as well. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you might have secondary hyperhidrosis because it is caused by an underlying factor. There are certain diseases and conditions that cause secondary hyperhidrosis, which range from benign to more serious. Medications can also cause secondary hyperhidrosis as a side effect.
Gustatory Sweating (Frey’s Syndrome)
Unlike primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, gustatory sweating is quite uncommon. Gustatory sweating is when sweating and flushing of the face occur when someone is eating. It can even occur as a result of someone thinking about food. It is most often caused by an injury to the parotid gland and its associated nerves which are located near the sides of the face. After an injury those nerves struggle to regrow in the proper place and communication signals are affected. Essentially, the body responds inappropriately to stimuli after after an injury or disease damages the nerves.
Regardless of which type of hyperhidrosis is causing you to struggle with excessive facial sweating anxiety often makes it worse. Symptoms tend to be worst during times of high stress. Luckily, there are effective ways to reduce and stop facial sweating so that it doesn’t have as big of an impact on your quality of life.
- Nicholas, R., Quddus, A., & Baker, D. M. (2015). Treatment of Primary Craniofacial Hyperhidrosis: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 16(5), 361-370. doi:10.1007/s40257-015-0136-6
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
- Huddle, J. R. (2014). Hyperhidrosis: Causes, Treatment Options and Outcomes. New York, NY: Nova Science.