We all sweat.
Sweating is an important thermoregulatory mechanism that helps our body cool down when our core temperature gets too high, whether from exercise, fever or illness, or simply being in a hot environment.
However, if you look around at the other people in your spin class and see that your shirt is drenched and everyone else looks only mildly sweaty, you might ask, “Why am I sweating so much?”
Although everyone has a different sweat rate, some people sweat much more than “normal.” Excessive sweating is actually a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis.
In this article, we will discuss causes of excessive sweating, including hyperhidrosis, aiming to answer the question, “Why do I sweat so much?”
We will cover:
- Why Do I Sweat So Much?
- Is It Bad to Sweat So Much?
- Why Do I Sweat So Easily?
Let’s get started!
Why Do I Sweat So Much?
Your body initiates the sweating response in order to lower your body temperature.
Therefore, anything that causes an increase in your core body temperature, such as exercise, being in a hot environment, having a fever, or even eating spicy food, can cause you to sweat.
You can also sweat when you are stressed or anxious.
However, if you sweat more than usual, you might have hyperhidrosis, a medical condition characterized by excessive sweating. Research suggests that approximately 2.8% of Americans have hyperhidrosis.
The term hyperhidrosis literally means excess (“hyper”) sweating (“hidrosis”).
But how much sweating is “excessive”? You may ask yourself often or on occasion, “why am I so sweaty?” or “why am I sweating so much?” but is it too much? How do you know?
There isn’t an actual cutoff of a specific sweat rate that is necessarily diagnostic of hyperhidrosis. However, healthcare experts say you generally know if you sweat more than others or seem to sweat abnormally more than others in situations that really don’t warrant as much sweating as you are doing.
Signs of hyperhidrosis include sweating through your clothes during a workout, sweating profusely when it’s hot out, feeling self-conscious about how sweaty you get, needing to be deliberate about your clothing choices due to sweat, and sweating when you’re not exercising or nervous.
Is It Bad to Sweat So Much?
If you don’t suffer from hyperhidrosis, you might assume that there are very few consequences or negative ramifications associated with excessive sweating.
You might imagine that someone who has hyperhidrosis may just need to drink more fluid, particularly during exercise, but other than that, most people who are not affected by the affliction assume it to be nothing more than perhaps a minor inconvenience.
While it is definitely true that sweating a lot will increase the amount of water you’ll need to drink, that’s often far from the extent of the impact for most people with hyperhidrosis.
In fact, studies have found that excessive sweating can actually impact nearly all aspects of your life.
For example, the study found that 95.8% of subjects with hyperhydrosis say that it negatively impacts their daily life overall. Additionally, 91.5% of participants report consequences in their psychological life, 90.1% report issues with their social life, and 74.6% report issues with their professional life.
Commonly-cited ramifications and consequences of hyperhydrosis were needing to be mindful about clothing choices in terms of color and material, avoiding spicy foods, and not being about to travel to hot destinations.
Others mention feeling embarrassed working out in group exercise classes or at gyms, embarrassment in dating or intimate citations, discomfort shaking hands due to sweaty palms, and even difficulty using touchscreens because their hands are too sweaty.
If you find yourself asking why am I so sweaty, read on to find the possible cause:
Why Do I Sweat So Easily?
As your body becomes heat acclimatized and adapted to exercise, you’ll actually start sweating earlier in your workout and may even sweat even more than untrained individuals doing the same workout.
Essentially, your body has become more efficient at cooling down, so this is a favorable adaptation to your fitness routine. Studies suggest that heat acclimatization happens after about 14 days.
However, if you’re sweating excessively and have hyperhidrosis, there are several potential underlying causes.
There are two main types of hyperhidrosis.
With primary hyperhidrosis, there is no known cause for excessive sweating.
With secondary hyperhidrosis, there is another underlying medical condition or medical cause for excessive sweating, such as diabetes, taking certain medications, infections, or hormonal changes such as those experienced during menopause and perimenopause.
Let’s take a closer look at each and other possible causes:
#1: Idiopathic Excessive Sweating
Primary hyperhidrosis is considered to be abnormal sweating with no discernible medical cause, so it may also be called idiopathic hyperhidrosis.
It may result in an excessive amount of general sweating around your entire body, or the abnormal sweating may be isolated to one region of sweat glands, in which case it is called primary focal hyperhidrosis.
The most common isolated area that might be affected by primary focal hyperhidrosis is the armpits, which is termed axillary hyperhidrosis.
Other isolated areas of the body that might be affected include the forehead, scalp or head, groin, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, lower back, or the area under your breasts or chest.
When you suffer from primary hyperhidrosis, you may sweat more easily in the heat compared to others and/or during exercise.
You might also experience profuse sweating when you become stressed, embarrassed, or anxious, which is sometimes colloquially referred to as “flop sweat.”
Some people with primary hyperhidrosis also sweat excessively in the absence of needing to cool the body down. In these cases, it is thought that the nerves responsible for communicating with sweat glands are overactive and are stimulated by something other than thermoreceptors.
There is still a lot that researchers do not yet fully understand about primary focal hyperhidrosis. It seems to typically begin around puberty and may have a genetic link, but there are also exceptions to these patterns.
#2: Hormonal Fluctuations
Secondary hyperhidrosis is attributable to an underlying medical cause, but it sometimes takes a little bit of further digging, testing, and investigating to identify this cause.
The main causes for excessive sweating are hormonal changes, diabetes, infections or illnesses that cause a fever, and certain medications.
Excessive sweating due to hormonal changes is most common during perimenopause and menopause, in which case surges in temperature and temperature fluctuation, in general, are quite common.
These menopause-associated hot flashes and night sweats are essentially spikes in body temperature that seemingly come out of nowhere but are due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels.
Some women also experience hot flashes and excessive sweating during pregnancy, and to a lesser degree, during or preceding menstruation during a normal menstrual cycle.
Hot flashes during perimenopause or menopause can cause sweating all over the body or localized sweating around the forehead, chest, and back. With night sweats, you might wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat.
Although hot flashes and night sweats are common and somewhat expected during menopause and potential pregnancy, abnormal hormonal imbalances can occur in both men and women at other phases of the life cycle, which can also result in excessive sweating and difficulty regulating your body temperature.
Additional symptoms of hormonal imbalances can include weight gain, changes in appetite, constipation or diarrhea, changes in sexual drive or sexual performance, dry skin, increased sensitivity to the heat or cold, and fatigue or difficulty sleeping.
Any time you have a fever, you can be prone to sweat more because your body is trying to cool down. However, there are also underlying infections that you might not be aware of that may be causing hyperhidrosis.
The most common examples of infections that can cause sweating include tuberculosis, endocarditis, and osteomyelitis (bone infection).
Particularly if you are experiencing concurrent symptoms with sweating, such as chills, coughing, fever, pale skin, muscle aches, unexplained fatigue, changes in weight, and changes in appetite, you should see your doctor immediately for further evaluation.
#4: Other Medical Conditions
There are other medical conditions that can increase perspiration or your sweat rate. Examples include anxiety disorders, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders, autonomic neuropathy, and HIV and AIDS.
Certain types of cancer, such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, can also cause excessive sweating.
Withdrawal from absences like alcohol, marijuana, opioids, and cocaine can also cause excessive perspiration.
#5: Certain Medications
There are certain types of medication that can increase sweating as a side effect. Examples include insulin and diabetes medications, hormone replacement therapy and certain birth control pills, and antidepressants.
Review the information provided with the medication that you take to see if sweating is listed as a common side effect.
If you have concerns about your medication routine and the effect it is having on your body, ask your prescriber about alternatives.
If you’re concerned about how much you sweat, make sure to speak with your doctor to consider underlying causes.
If you think you are suffering from sweating due to anxiety, check out our guide: Stress Sweat Vs Regular Sweat + 4 Tips To Manage It.