What causes excessive sweating? A Q&A with a dermatologist

If you’re someone who suffers from excessive sweating, you can understand the irritation (and often embarrassment) to live with. We asked Lauri Vargo, MD, Nebraska Medicine dermatologist, to answer our questions about the potential causes and some treatment options for excessive sweating.

1. What are some reasons a person may sweat excessively?

Sweating is our body’s way of keeping us cool and safe, so the main reason people sweat is because of excessive heat. We also think of other reasons why we sweat, including our emotions, social situations, exercise, or anxiety. Then there are those who suffer from excessive sweating beyond what is expected. This condition is called hyperhidrosis.

There are two forms of hyperhidrosis. It is important to distinguish between the two. Excessive sweating affects about 20% of the population, and about 5% of them fall into the category of hyperhidrosis.

Primary focal hyperhidrosis

This type is the most common type of excessive sweating that I see in my clinic as a dermatologist. It is usually observed from an early age and is usually localized to the hands, feet and armpits. Although not dangerous, it is a nuisance and can be quite debilitating. We believe that genetics plays a role and that many people with this type of sweating have loved ones who also have it.

Generalized hyperhidrosis

This form causes excessive sweating throughout the body and may be due to medication or an underlying disease. It is important to discuss this type of sweating with your doctor.

3. Are there certain medications or medical conditions that can cause excessive sweating?

Yes. Typically, when we see a medication or an underlying condition causing excessive sweating, the sweating is new. In other words, it’s not something that lasts from childhood or adolescence. Typically, the sweat is all over the body (not just the hands, feet, and armpits). Several medications and medical conditions can cause excessive sweating, and if you are concerned about this, we recommend discussing this with your doctor.

4. Should a person be concerned if they experience a sudden onset of excessive sweating?

If someone experiences a sudden onset of profuse sweating, it’s worth making an appointment with your doctor. Sudden onset sweating can also be linked to many medications and underlying conditions.

5. Are there treatment options for excessive sweating?

There are many ways to manage or treat excessive sweating. Included in our list of treatment options are topical medications, oral medications (pills), injectable medications like Botox, and more. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.

Everyone sweats in different ways. But when sweating becomes bothersome, embarrassing, and interferes with your daily life or self-esteem, you might want to consider a medical solution. Call 800.922.0000 make an appointment.