What is Diaphoresis?

Stephany Seipel

Diaphoresis is a blanket term for unusually heavy or excessive sweating. Some people might sweat heavily in hot weather or while exercising. This is normal and rarely a cause for concern. People who experience diaphoresis for no apparent reason should see a doctor, because it might be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

During menopause, women often experience excessive perspiration caused by hot flashes.
During menopause, women often experience excessive perspiration caused by hot flashes.

People can become profusely sweaty for a number of reasons. Some individuals perspire more heavily than others because they have overactive sweat glands. Eating spicy foods can cause diaphoresis; emotional shock and traumatic or stressful situations can also cause people to break out in a sweat. Common causes such as lifting heavy objects, working out and being exposed to hot weather do not usually require medical treatment.

Hypoglycemia can cause excessive perspiration.
Hypoglycemia can cause excessive perspiration.

Hyperhidrosis is a medical term for diaphoresis without an evident cause. Sufferers might break out in a sweat even in cool weather or when relaxed. Some people might have palmar hyperhidrosis, or sweaty hands. Axillary hyperhidrosis occurs under the arms. Both conditions are embarrassing to sufferers and can lead to psychological distress and social issues.

A person who is suffering from diaphoresis or hyperhidrosis might have a medical condition that is causing the problem. Menopausal women often have hot flashes that can cause them to perspire profusely. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, also can cause sweating.

Other possible causes of diaphoresis include an overactive thyroid as well as infections, migraines and diseases. Excessive sweating might also indicate a life-threatening condition such as congestive heart failure, tumors, diabetes or an auto-immune disorder such as lupus. Some prescription and non-prescription medications can cause hyperhidrosis; alcohol or drug abuse might also be a factor.

Sweating is the primary symptom in most patients who have diaphoresis or hyperhidrosis, but some sufferers might have other symptoms as well, such as appetite loss, rapid heartbeat or weight loss. Doctors diagnose diaphoresis by performing examinations such as the paper test, in which the physician soaks up some of the sweat with a piece of special paper and weighs it to determine how much sweat has accumulated. They might also order thyroid function tests or X-rays to look for underlying medical issues.

Treatment options vary depending upon the condition. Some diaphoretic patients can control their condition with strong anti-antiperspirants or prescription medications that prevent overactive sweat glands from becoming stimulated. In severe instances, doctors might also perform an operation called a sympathectomy that turns off the sweat synthesis receptors. Other cases are managed by treating the underlying condition that is causing the hyperhidrosis.

People can sweat profusely for a number of reasons.
People can sweat profusely for a number of reasons.

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