Excessive sweating, also called hyperhidrosis, can affect the entire body, but usually occurs in the palms, soles, armpits, and/or groin area. Excessive sweating is normal when a person is anxious or has a fever, which is at intermittent periods, however it can become an issue for those who suffer from chronic excessive sweating.
There are two basic kinds of sweating: localized and generalized.
Localized Sweating — Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis
Localized excessive sweating is also known as primary focal hyperhidrosis. It's the most common cause of excessive sweating and it affects as much as 3% of the population of the United States, starting in late childhood or early adolescence.
Primary focal hyperhidrosis does not cause illness, it's merely excessive sweating. While it is a medical condition that can be treated it is not typically a sign of a disease and those who experience are typically healthy.
Research has shown no consistent cause though there is belief that it may stem from minor malfunctions in the nervous system, with some indication of hereditary abnormality.
Generalized Sweating — Secondary General Hyperhidrosis
This is the less common form of hyperhidrosis which causes sweating all over. From a medical standpoint this is a more serious condition and is often caused by an underlying medical or health condition. There are a number of triggers that can cause generalized excessive sweating.
Symptoms of Excessive Sweating
Areas that create instances of excessive sweating usually appear pink or white, but, in severe cases, may appear cracked, scaly and soft (especially on the feet). Other symptoms may include a bad odor caused by bacteria and yeast in the area of sweating. Excessive sweating symptoms may resemble other medical conditions so it's important to consult your physician for a diagnosis, especially when recurring changes occur.
If an individual is sweating because they're hot, because they are overweight or because they're exerting themselves then it's not necessarily a sign of trouble (though obesity can lead to other issues). Sweating is a normal reaction to activity, where the body thinks it needs to cool itself down. If chronic excessive sweating happens regularly however, even when there is little to no activity, there may be a problem.
Generalized excessive sweating is often triggered by a variety of medical conditions and diseases that can include:
- Thyroid problems
- Infectious diseases
- Parkinson's disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart failure
- Cancers (leukemia and lymphoma, for example)
Other disorders can cause excessive sweating as well such as chronic anxiety, nervous system disorders and medications that alter normal body functions as a primary or secondary affect (psychiatric meds, blood pressure meds, herbal and dietary supplements, etc.).