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Sweating is simply your body’s way of regulating its temperature and keeping cool.
The process is necessary for your health. The product of sweating—perspiration—is a salty liquid produced in your sweat glands, which are located in the dermis, or middle layer, of your skin.
How much you sweat depends on the number of sweat glands in your body. Women tend to have more sweat glands than men, but men’s sweat glands tend to be more active. Sweat glands are most common on the palms of the hand, the soles of the feet, and in the two underarm areas.
What Triggers Sweating?
We sweat in a number of situations—for example, when we’re hot, or exercising, or anxious. Eating certain foods, especially alcohol or caffeine, can make us perspire more than usual. So can certain medications, including antibiotics, blood pressure medicines, and even some dietary supplements.
Sweating is, of course, a side effect of fever, and therefore a sign of an illness. But sweating in the absence of a fever can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, including diabetes, thyroid disorders, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
When Is Sweating Considered Excessive?
Some people just sweat more easily than others. It’s in their genetic makeup. Sweating is also more common in individuals who are overweight or out of shape.
But about 3 percent of Americans have an excessive sweating condition known as hyperhidrosis. Scientists believe hyperhidrosis occurs when the nerves that send messages to the sweat glands to produce perspiration go into overdrive, overstimulating the glands—and creating excess sweat.
When excessive sweating is caused by a medical condition, it’s known as secondary general hyperhidrosis. This condition tends to produce sweat all over the body. In other cases, however, the sweating is more localized, affecting only the hands, feet, groin, or underarms. This is known as primary focal hyperhidrosis. Although often triggered by emotional stimili, the precise cause of localized hyperhidrosis is unclear. Genetics appears to be involved. Studies have shown, for example, that up to 50 percent of individuals with excessive hand sweating had a family history of the condition.
How Is Excessive Sweating Treated?
Surveys have also found that less than half of all people with hyperhidrosis seek medical care for the condition. That’s unfortunate, as there are several effective treatments.
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