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man in office with a sweat under his armpit

Why do I sweat so much?

Sweaty armpits might not be the best of looks, but sweat actually plays an essential role in regulating the temperature of our bodies. Some people do naturally sweat a bit more than others, but how much is too much?

Excessive sweating could be the cause of an underlying health condition. Here, we’ll explore the reasons for sweating in different parts of the body, plus ways to help stop it.

But first, here’s some facts about sweating1

  • Everyone has between two and five million sweat glands spread across their body
  • Your body is always sweating, even if you don’t notice it2
  • Used to exercise? You may find you start sweating sooner when you workout but don’t worry, that’s just because your body recognises that you need to cool down. So you can work out for longer
  • Not everyone’s sweat is the same. Some people have a high salt content in their sweat. If your sweat stings your eyes or leaves white marks on your clothing, you’re a salty sweater
  • During intense exercise in a warm climate, athletes can sweat off two to six percent of their body weight

The reasons for excessive sweating

While sweating more when you’re hot or doing exercise is completely normal, if you’re always sweaty you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis. But don’t worry, there are thing you can do to help with excessive sweating:3,4
  • Try to wear different shoes every day, leather ones are best
  • Get some socks that will absorb moisture, and try to change them at least once a day
  • Wear lose fitting clothes. Tight clothes will only increase the signs of sweating, and might even make you sweat more
  • Apply antiperspirant before bed. It’s important to choose an antiperspirant rather than a deodorant, as these work by blocking the sweat ducts so the sweat can’t reach the surface of our skin. Deodorants simply mask the smell, but still allow a build-up of sweat

There are also some things you shouldn’t do if you’re prone to excessive sweating:

  • Try to avoid wearing enclosed boots or sports shoes, as these may cause your feet to sweat more
  • There are some things (e.g. drinking large amounts of alcohol and eating spicy food), which may make you sweat more, so you should avoid doing these as much as possible
  • Avoid clothes made from nylon or any other tight, man-made fabrics

Medical treatments for excessive sweating

If you sweat to excess, try not to stress about it too much. Luckily, there are a range of medical treatments available that can help5:

Prescription antiperspirant

If you’re diagnosed with hyperhidrosis, the first thing your doctor will probably try is prescription antiperspirant. These are stronger than the ones you can buy over the counter. Alternatively, there are a range of prescription creams you can try if you tend to sweat more on your face or head.

Antidepressants

Excessive anxiety can be caused or contributed to by excessive sweating. If this is the case, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to help treat your anxiety.

Oral medication

Some medications can help reduce sweating. They do this by blocking the chemicals that allow certain nerves to communicate with each other, which can help reduce sweating. However, it’s important to research any potential side effects before taking any oral medications.

Botox injections

Lasting six to 12 months, botox injections block the nerves that cause excessive sweating (usually in the armpits). However, some people have experienced muscle weakness temporarily in the affected area after treatment, so it’s worth keeping this in mind.

Surgery

In the most extreme cases of excessive sweating, surgery to remove the sweat glands is an option. However, this is usually a last resort and only if the patient’s life is significantly affected by the condition.

Last updated: 1 June 2020

Sources
  1. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/7-fun-facts-about-sweat
  2. https://www.livescience.com/41561-why-do-i-sweat-so-much.html
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/excessive-sweating-hyperhidrosis/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-sweating#antiperspirant
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-sweating#medical-intervention

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