Sweating and body odor
When to seek medical advice
See your doctor if you suddenly begin to sweat more than usual or
experience night sweats for no apparent reason. A cold sweat is usually
your body's response to a serious illness, anxiety or severe pain. Seek
immediate medical attention for a cold sweat if you have signs of
lightheadedness or chest and stomach pains.
Also talk to your doctor if you notice a change in body odor it may be
a sign of certain medical conditions. A fruity smell, for example, may
be a sign of diabetes and an ammonia smell could indicate liver or
kidney disease. In addition, a rare condition known as fish-odor
syndrome (trimethylaminuria), causes an odor similar to rotting fish.
People with fish-odor syndrome have a defective gene that prevents them
from metabolizing trimethylamine (TMA), a natural byproduct of the
digestion of foods such as saltwater fish, eggs and liver.
Your skin has two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine
glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly
onto the surface of your skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas abundant
in hair follicles, such as your scalp, underarms and genitals.
You have between 2 million and 5 million eccrine sweat glands. When your
body temperature rises, your autonomic nervous system stimulates these
glands to secrete fluid onto the surface of your skin, where it cools
your body as it evaporates. This fluid (perspiration) is composed mainly
of water and salt (sodium chloride) and contains trace amounts of
electrolytes substances that help regulate the balance of fluids in
Apocrine glands, on the other hand, secrete a fatty sweat directly into
the tubule of the gland. When you're under emotional stress, the wall of
the tubule contracts and the sweat is pushed to the surface of your skin
where bacteria begin breaking it down. Most often, it's the bacterial
breakdown of apocrine sweat that causes a strong odor.
number of factors can affect how much you sweat and even the way your
sweat smells. Certain foods, drugs or medical conditions can cause
excessive sweating, whereas drugs or conditions may interfere with your
ability to perspire normally.
Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
people sweat more than others for no apparent reason. But some factors
may make you sweat heavily. These include:
Some people inherit a tendency to sweat excessively, especially on
their palms and the soles of their feet.
Drinking hot beverages and those that contain caffeine or alcohol
can make you sweat. Eating spicy foods can do the same thing.
Drugs that can cause excessive sweating include some antipsychotic
medications used to treat mental disorders, morphine and excess
doses of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. Overdoses of analgesics such
as aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) also can cause
Women going through menopause may experience hot flashes a rise in
skin temperature accompanied by sweating and a feeling of intense
heat due to a drop in estrogen levels. Some menopausal women may
also be awakened at night by soaking sweats followed by chills.
Low levels of
Men with low levels of the male hormone testosterone or a condition
known as hypogonadism which caused reduced functioning of the
testicles also can have hot flashes.
Low blood sugar
This occurs when the level of sugar in your blood drops below a
certain level. It's most common in people with diabetes who take
insulin or oral medications that enhance the action of insulin.
Early signs and symptoms include sweating, shakiness, weakness,
hunger, dizziness and nausea. Some people may develop low blood
sugar after eating, especially if they've had stomach or intestinal
surgery. In rare cases your body may produce too much of the
pancreatic hormone insulin, leading to low blood sugar.
A fever occurs when your temperature rises above its normal range.
You may have a fever with many types of bacterial and viral
infections, ranging from a mild case of the flu to serious illnesses
such as pneumonia. When your body temperature finally begins to
return to normal, you may sweat profusely, which is your body's way
of dissipating the excess heat. Fevers followed by shaking chills
may indicate a serious infection.
Sometimes the thyroid gland produces excess amounts of the hormone
thyroxine. This can cause a number of signs and symptoms, including
weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness and
increased sensitivity to heat. It may also cause you to perspire
much more than normal.
This occurs when a loss of blood supply damages or destroys part of
your heart muscle. A heart attack may sometimes be fatal. The
symptoms of a heart attack include pressure, fullness or squeezing
pain in your chest that lasts for a few minutes or pain that extends
beyond your chest to your shoulder, arm or back; shortness of breath
and intense sweating. If you experience these symptoms, get
immediate medical care. Every minute counts after a heart attack.
When left untreated,
tuberculosis can be fatal. Among its signs and symptoms are a cough,
slight fever and night sweats.
that occurs primarily in rural areas of tropical and subtropical
countries. The symptoms are related to the life cycle of the
parasite that causes malaria, and may begin anywhere from 8 days to
1 year after you've been infected. Initially, you may have chills,
headache, vomiting and nausea, but as your body temperature falls,
you begin to sweat profusely. The cycle may recur every 48 or 72
Leukemia and lymphoma can produce unusual sweating patterns.
Decreased or nonexistent sweating (anhidrosis)
people worry about excessive sweating. But some people sweat very little
or not at all a condition that can be potentially life-threatening.
Factors that may affect your ability to perspire normally include:
Antipsychotic medications used to treat serious mental disorders may
interfere with the functioning of the sweat glands.
ectodermal dysplasia (HED).
Children with this rare disorder are born without sweat glands,
which puts them at high risk of death from overheating
(hyperthermia) especially in hot environments. So far scientists
have identified two genes that may be responsible for HED.
This disorder damages the nerves that help control some of the
involuntary functions of the autonomic nervous system, which
regulates your internal organs, sweat glands and blood pressure.
Damage to these nerves can interfere with the activity of your sweat
glands, making it hard for your body to maintain its normal
Severe infections of the sweat glands such as hidradenitis may
prevent the glands from functioning normally.
Major (third-degree) burns either from fire, chemicals or
electricity can damage the skin as well as sweat glands, muscle
and even bone.
This occurs when you don't have enough water in your body to carry
on normal functions. You can easily become dehydrated when you work
or exercise in hot weather and don't drink enough fluids to replace
what you've lost through perspiration. Other common causes of
dehydration include persistent vomiting or diarrhea or the use of
medications that increase the flow of urine (diuretics). Eventually,
you may lose so much water that you're no longer able to sweat.
Signs and symptoms may include thirst, weakness and confusion.
Severe dehydration can be fatal. Older adults and young children are
especially at risk.
Like dehydration, heatstroke can occur when you work or exercise
strenuously in hot weather and don't drink enough to replace the
fluids you've lost. Older adults, people who are obese and children
with HED are at high risk of heatstroke. Heatstroke is particularly
serious because your body's normal mechanisms for dealing with heat
stress, such as sweating, are lost.
Sweating and body odor
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