Symptoms of Hyperhidrosis

In This Article

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that is characterized by excessive sweating that is not necessarily associated with the body’s temperature, nervousness, or physical activity. In fact, heavy sweating may occur during any time of the day, or night—depending on the type of hyperhidrosis one has. There are two basic forms of hyperhidrosis—primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary general hyperhidrosis. The sweating is localized to specific parts of the body in focal hyperhidrosis, while in general hyperhidrosis the sweating may be in several areas of the body, or all over the body. Complications of hyperhidrosis include skin problems and an impact on psychological wellbeing and quality of life.

Frequent Symptoms

Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis Symptoms

Primary focal hyperhidrosis is a condition that usually begins in childhood. It is considered an idiopathic disease, meaning that the underlying cause is unknown, although it can be seen to run in families, so there may be a genetic component.

In primary focal hyperhidrosis sweating usually occurs in one or more “focal” areas of the body. Excessive sweating affects one or a combination of several areas of the body including:

  • Hands (palmer hyperhidrosis)
  • Feet (solar hyperhidrosis)
  • Armpits (axillary hyperhidrosis)
  • Face (forehead) and head

The most common areas involved in focal hyperhidrosis include the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and under the arms.

Profuse sweating often:

  • Exceeds the normal level of body sweating
  • Occurs regardless of activity level or body temperature
  • Involves the hands, feet, underarms and/or face
  • Interferes with daily activities of life (for example, sweaty hands may interfere with proper grasping of items).
  • Causes clothes to become stained (resulting in visible sweating that often results in embarrassment)
  • Causes wet socks/shoes and an increase in foot odor
  • Results in soft, cracked or scaly skin—from continuous moisture—on the affected areas.
  • Involves severe sweating episodes that occur at least once a week (during waking hours)
  • Occurs on both sides of the body at once

Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis Symptoms

Those with secondary generalized hyperhidrosis are usually diagnosed later in life. Many times, the condition begins after a person is diagnosed with a different medical condition (such as a neurological or hormone-related disease), or may be caused by medications such as several anti-depression drugs. General hyperhidrosis involves sweating that is not necessarily linked with the body being overheated or with exercise, and it usually involves generalized sweating all over the body rather than just in specific areas. It’s also common for those with secondary generalized hyperhidrosis to sweat at night, whereas focal hyperhidrosis does not usually involve night sweats.

Many of the symptoms of generalized hyperhidrosis are similar to that of primary focused hyperhidrosis. Sweating is much more excessive than normal bodily sweating. It occurs any time of day or night and it does not necessarily occur as a response to exercise, increased body temperature or nervousness/anxiety.

Profuse sweating that may occur:

  • In one area of the body, or all over the body
  • While asleep
  • On just one side of the body (such as on one side of the face)
  • Later in life, many times after the diagnosis of a different condition or after starting on a new type of medication.

Rare Symptoms

Rare symptoms of hyperhidrosis may occur as a result of the diagnosis of an underlying condition, examples include:

Greither’s Disease: A rare, inherited, skin disorder involving symptoms of:

  • Unusual thickness and hardening of the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Excessive sweating of the hands and feet

Frey’s Syndrome: A rare neurological disorder that is often caused as a result of a complication from plastic surgery of the face or other types of facial or neck surgery. Symptoms include:

  • Sweating or flushing on one side of the cheek, temple, behind the ear or on the side of the face
  • Sweating often occurs when eating or thinking about eating
  • Symptoms sometimes worsen when eating hot, spicy or highly acidic foods

Complications

There are several complications that can occur as a result of the type of chronic, profuse sweating that people with hyperhidrosis can experience, these may include:

Social and emotional issues include embarrassment from body odor and visible sweating, social isolation, and more. Some individuals with hyperhidrosis describe their symptoms as being so severe that they hesitate to pursue a romantic partnership, avoid social activities, and experience severe anxiety due to the disorder. In fact, in a study, 35% of people with hyperhidrosis reported a decrease in leisure activity time due to excessive sweating and 41% reported that sweating interfered with their pursuit of hobbies, avoiding exercise, walking and even reading (for those with palmer hyperhidrosis).

Psychological impact: As many as one-third of people with hyperhidrosis report their condition as being barely tolerable or intolerable and reported that the condition frequently interfering with activities of daily living.

Additional psychosocial symptoms of hyperhidrosis include:

  • Avoiding social engagement (such as handshaking)
  • Depression
  • Lack of confidence
  • Impairment of work performance
  • Missed social gatherings
  • Difficulty with social and romantic relationships

Other complications may include:

  • Skin maceration (softening) can occur in the affected areas of the skin due to them being continually moist.
  • Tinea cruris (jock itch) is a fungal infection that results from the skin folds in the groin being wet continuously
  • Tenia pedis (athlete’s foot) is a fungal infection similar to tinea cruris. This condition originates from a fungus that grows in a wet moist environment, located on the foot, usually in between the toes (instead of in the groin area).
  • Skin infections can result from the combination of maceration, which causes skin breakdown, combined with bacteria and viruses that gravitate to moist, warm and dark areas of the body.

When to See a Doctor

Hyperhidrosis can be the result of a condition that is much more serious, it’s important to seek medical advice when sweating is accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain (or a feeling of pressure in the chest)
  • Severe nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

It’s also important to see a doctor if your sweating:

  • Is primarily experienced during sleeping hours (at night)
  • Interferes with your normal daily activities
  • Causes emotional withdrawal or depression
  • Suddenly increases (sweating more than usual)
  • Pattern changes and you are experiencing sweating in a different focal area than it was originally experienced in (particularly after surgery), this condition is called compensatory sweating.

A Word from Verywell

Often, people with excessive sweating avoid seeking medical advice due to embarrassment. It’s important to understand that while experiencing symptoms of hyperhidrosis may be very unpleasant and frustrating, there is hope. There are medical interventions that can help to improve symptoms, online resources with tips on how to cope with the disease, as well as support groups with people who can offer help and support. The condition can be manageable, but you must take the first step and reach out for help.

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Article Sources

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