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Heavy Sweating

Topic Overview

Why do people sweat?

Sweating is your body's way of cooling down and getting rid of some chemicals. Sometimes heavy sweating is normal. You may sweat a lot when you exercise, when you are too hot, or when you are frightened.

It's normal for teenagers to sweat more than they did when they were younger. A teen's sweat glands are growing along with the rest of his or her body.

And menopause often causes women to have heavy sweating now and then.

But some people have a condition that makes them sweat too much. They may drip sweat even when it's not hot and they're not exercising. Some people carry a towel around with them because their hands are always wet with sweat.

For these people, sweating is a problem that can be very hard to live with, even though they have no other health problems. In most cases, there's no known cause for this condition.

What else can cause very heavy sweating?

Certain problems such as diabetes, heart failure, anxiety, and overactive thyroid can cause heavy sweating. And some drugs may cause heavy sweating as a side effect.

What can you do at home?

It can be upsetting to have sweat drip from your face and palms or to have smelly feet and shoes. It may even cause you to avoid having relationships that involve any kind of touching.

These tips may help:

  • You may be able to reduce the amount you sweat by lowering stress in your life.
  • Bathe 1 or 2 times a day with soap and water. Don't scrub your skin too much, because that can irritate it. Dry your skin well after bathing.
  • Use a deodorant with antiperspirant. Try putting it on at night before bed.
  • Wear clothing made of material that lets your skin breathe. Cotton, wool, silk, and linen are good choices. When you exercise, wear material that removes (wicks) the moisture from your skin.
  • Keep an extra shirt at work or in a school locker.
  • Attach pads (underarm or dress shields) to the armpit area of clothing to absorb sweat. You can buy these pads in sports or clothing stores.
  • Let your shoes dry out for a day after you wear them. If possible, set them in a place where the sun will shine on them. That will help kill the bacteria that cause the smell.
  • Change your socks at least once a day. Wash your socks after each wearing.
  • Use foot powder or talc in your shoes and socks and on your feet. Put inserts in your shoes to absorb some of the sweat. Go barefoot for a while each day to let your feet dry out.
  • Limit hot drinks, such as coffee and tea, which can make you sweat more.

Are there treatments for heavy sweating?

If you are sweating so heavily that it is affecting your daily life, talk to your doctor. You may feel embarrassed to talk about it, but you'll find out that there are treatments that can help. They include:

  • Prescription antiperspirants. If over-the-counter brands aren't helping you, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. These products are usually applied at bedtime.
  • Electricity. A procedure called iontophoresis (say "eye-AWN-tuh-fuh-REE-sus") sends a weak electric current through your skin. You place your hands or feet into shallow trays of water while the current is sent through the water. The current causes a tingling feeling in your skin. You do this repeatedly for several days until your sweating is back to a comfortable level.
  • Botox injections. With this treatment, you get shots in the areas that are causing problems, such as the armpits or the hands. The Botox temporarily blocks the nerves that make you sweat.
  • Medicines. Certain medicines may help by preventing the stimulation of sweat glands or by lowering the effects of stress.

For very severe cases when other treatments have failed, surgery may be done to remove sweat glands or destroy the nerves leading to sweat glands.

Other Places To Get Help

Organization

International Hyperhidrosis Society
 
6121-A Kellers Church Road
Pipersville, PA 18947
 
Phone: 215-351-9050
Email: info@sweathelp.org
Web Address: www.sweathelp.org
 

The International Hyperhidrosis Society offers information and support for people suffering from heavy sweating, from normally developing teenagers to adults who sweat profusely without any apparent reason.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • Fealey RD, Sato K (2008). Disorders of the eccrine sweat glands and sweating. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 720–730. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia (2007). Hyperhidrosis. Available online: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007259.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised September 1, 2011

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