Excessive Sweat: Potential Causes and Possible Solutions

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Sweating during exercise or when it's hot and humid is typical. But some feel they sweat too much and are bothered by sweating a lot during exercise. Or you might experience excessive underarm or groin sweat that can cause embarrassment and discomfort even when you're not working out.

Targeting the causes of sweat can help you to find the best solution. Below is more on why people sweat, what is considered normal and what you can do about it.

Why You Sweat

Sweating is a normal physiological response to your body being hot. Sweat is produced in glands in the dermis layer of your skin and released through pores. Each square inch of skin contains about 650 sweat glands.

Even though you may not notice it, you're constantly sweating. Perspiring works to release heat and cool your body down. Sweat usually evaporates quickly, so you don't realize that it's there, and this evaporation causes a cooling effect.

Certain activities or situations can cause a build-up of sweat, such as heat, physical exertion, stress, spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, medications, and some medical conditions. You're also more likely to sweat often if your body goes through hormonal changes such as teenage years, during pregnancy, and menopause.

Some studies have suggested that individuals with higher body fat tend to sweat more; however, more research is necessary. Larger people, in general, also tend to sweat more than smaller individuals, especially during exercise.

Excessive Sweating

Bradley Bloom, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who practices at Skin and Laser Specialists in New York City. He says no clear diagnostic criteria indicate precisely how much sweat is too much, but if someone visits him in the office with a complaint that they are sweating too much, they probably are. These patients often say excessive sweating gets in the way of simple daily activities and limits social and/or professional opportunities.

There are two different kinds of hyperhidrosis: Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis and primary focal hyperhidrosis.

Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis

Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is excess perspiration that happens as the result of another medical condition. For example, people with gout, diabetes, or certain heart or thyroid conditions may experience hyperhidrosis.

You may also experience excessive sweating because of a medication you take, as certain medications are known to cause hyperhidrosis. This type of hyperhidrosis develops in adulthood. Excess sweating may occur in one area of the body or all over. Sweating may also happen during the day for no apparent reason or at night while you're asleep.

Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis

With primary focal hyperhidrosis, you experience excessive sweating in one or more specific locations on your body. This often includes the armpits, feet, hands, or forehead and will occur on both sides of the body.

People with primary focal hyperhidrosis often have a family history of the condition. It frequently becomes noticeable in adolescence, and doctors generally cannot pinpoint a specific cause (such as medication or a medical condition). If you have primary focal hyperhidrosis, you will not experience excessive sweating while sleeping.

Excessive Armpit Sweat

Sweating all over your body can be problematic, but many people notice more sweat in the armpit area. Excessive sweating in the armpits is a type of primary focal hyperhidrosis called axillary hyperhidrosis. You may also experience odor in this area, which can increase embarrassment and cause additional stress or anxiety.

The sweat glands that are active in the armpits are called apocrine glands. These glands emit a thicker fluid than the sweat you might feel on other areas of your body, like your forehead, hands, or feet. When this thick sweat interacts with bacteria on the skin under your arms, it causes odor.

While almost everyone experiences some degree of armpit sweat, you might feel like yours is problematic. Solutions for armpit sweat include:

Special Clothing and Shields

Some excess sweaters manage the problem by wearing an extra layer underneath their clothing. A simple cotton undershirt works for some, but sweat-proof shirts are also available that resist sweat and odor.

If you sweat a lot during certain occasions, like business meetings or social events, it may be helpful to plan and bring an extra shirt. Some people keep an extra shirt at work just in case they need it.

Isolated cases of excessive sweating may be managed by using small fabric liners or garment shields. The disposable products usually have an adhesive backing so that you can attach them to the inside of your clothing to capture excess perspiration.

Antiperspirants

Many over-the-counter products address sweating and odor. Many health and beauty stores carry antiperspirants (intended for use on the underarms) that work by clogging the pores so they cannot release sweat.

You may want to apply antiperspirant at night, so it has time to get into the pores and block the sweat glands by morning. Even if you shower in the morning, the product won't wash off because your pores will have absorbed it.

On the other hand, deodorants help mask the odor caused by the mixture of sweat and bacteria. Your doctor may be able to provide you with a prescription-strength antiperspirant that contains aluminum chloride. You can usually use prescription products on different areas, including the hands, feet, underarms, and head.

Medical Solutions

There are also medical solutions for armpit sweat. Some are more invasive than others and each have their own pros and cons.

Qbrexza (glycopyrronium) Cloth

The first FDA-approved prescription medication of its kind, Qbrexza, is a pre-moistened disposable towelette infused with an anticholinergic drug. It's approved for adults and children ages 9 and up for excessive underarm sweating. It's applied once daily to the underarms only.

Botox

Some patients use Botox injections (onabotulinumtoxinA) to treat sweaty underarms. Botox temporarily blocks the signals that tell your glands to start sweating. Dr. Bloom explains that patients who use Botox for underarm sweat get about three to six months of relief.

Patients need to repeat the injections to get continued relief. Botox can also be used on other areas, including the face, palms, and feet. The cost of a Botox treatment varies based on location but generally costs $1,000 to $1,500.

miraDry

This FDA-approved procedure uses electromagnetic energy to target and eliminates sweat glands in the underarm. Dr. Bloom, who performs this procedure, says that patients usually see an immediate 60% to 80% in underarm sweat after one miraDry procedure and at least an 80% reduction after two treatments. "This procedure definitely works on underarm sweat, and some studies say that it also works on odor," says Dr. Bloom.

"Many things cause odor, and it is harder to quantify odor than it is to quantify sweat," he says. However, miraDry is Dr. Bloom's recommended treatment for patients with excessive underarm sweat because it is more cost-effective than Botox and less invasive than surgery. However, miraDry may not work on odor if you don't sweat a lot.

According to Dr. Bloom, advances in anesthesia have allowed for more effective miraDry treatments and more significant results after the initial treatment. Side effects may include damaged nerves under the skin, aching, swelling, numbness, and tingling in the treated area. Dr. Bloom says most side effects can be minimized with proper pre-procedure care.

The cost of miraDry varies based on your area but generally costs around $1,500 to $2,000 per treatment. Currently, miraDry is only FDA-approved to treat underarm sweating.

Surgery

Different surgical procedures either damage or remove underarm sweat glands so that they no longer work. These permanent solutions for underarm sweat may include liposuction, curettage (a scraping procedure), or a combination of both techniques.

Complete removal of the underarm tissue (excision) is another possible treatment. However, it is not recommended because of severe side effects such as scarring and limited movement in the arm or shoulder area after surgery, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

The surgery cost will depend on the procedure you choose, the size of the area you treat, and the part of the country where you live.

Excessive Groin Sweat

While underarm perspiration is more common, excessive sweat in the groin area may be more uncomfortable and embarrassing. Mache Seibel, MD, is a menopause expert and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He says that the condition can be especially uncomfortable for women who exercise.

"Excessive sweating or perspiration in the vagina, groin, buttock, and thigh region is known as truncal hyperhidrosis," he says. "But many women know it as the 'crotch spot.' It's a dead giveaway and an embarrassing demonstration of a great workout."

Dr. Seibel says that odor can occur when the groin area is moist. "A sweaty genital area creates an ideal environment for microbes to thrive," he says. "The dampness encourages the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina, which can throw off the delicate balance of pH, causing odor and discomfort."

He suggests possible solutions for this potentially awkward problem. Try using unscented pads during menstruation to help reduce groin sweat and odor. Wipe before and after using the restroom with baby wipes, and wear cotton panties. Be sure to wear loose clothing made from natural fibers or technical fabric designed to wick away sweat.

RepHresh Gel is a product that helps to bring the pH back to a normal 3.5–4.5 range. Dr. Seibel recommends that his patients use it with a probiotic like RepHresh Pro-B to keep yeast and bacteria balanced daily.

Talk to your doctor about balancing hormones. Dr. Seibel says that low thyroid or low estrogen during and around menopause can contribute to groin sweat and odor.

Excessive Sweat in the Hands and Feet

Sweaty hands and feet can affect your day-to-day routine in frustrating ways. Simply turning a doorknob can become arduous if your palms sweat too much, and sweaty feet can limit your footwear choices.

Palmar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating on the palms of your hands) and plantar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the feet) can be treated with at-home and in-office solutions:

  • Antiperspirants: Many of the same products you use on your underarms to reduce sweating can also be used on your feet. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a stronger antiperspirant to help keep your feet comfortable.
  • Botox: Some patients turn to Botox injections to get relief from sweating on the hands and feet. However, the treatment can be costly, not permanent, and painful when used on the feet and hands.
  • Iontophoresis: This process uses treatment devices that allow you to sit with your hands and feet immersed in a water tray while an electrical current passes through the water. Each treatment lasts for about 15 to 40 minutes and is repeated thrice per week until you get the desired results. During the maintenance phase, you might only do the treatment once weekly. The cost of the device may run close to $700, but it can also be rented. Your insurance may also cover the cost of this sweat treatment.
  • Moisture-wicking socks: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people who experience excessive sweating in the feet avoid cotton socks and instead wear socks with moisture-wicking fibers. They also suggest wearing shoes made from natural fibers, such as leather.

A Word From Verywell

Everyone sweats, and almost everyone has experienced moments when they sweat too much. But if you experience excessive perspiration all the time, you deserve relief.

While sweating too much probably isn't a life-threatening condition, it may be a sign of a more serious issue, and treatments for excessive sweating are available. So talk to your doctor if perspiration in any part of your body affects your daily life.

Experts recommend that you keep a sweat journal before you see your health care provider determine the cause of your sweating and the best treatment options. Your primary care physician may be the best first step, but you may eventually want to seek the care of a board-certified dermatologist to find the best course of action.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Dervis S, Coombs GB, Chaseling GK, Filingeri D, Smoljanic J, Jay O. A comparison of thermoregulatory responses to exercise between mass-matched groups with large differences in body fat. J Appl Physiol. 2016;120(6):615-623. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00906.2015

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By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.