Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Sweating

Sweating is the release of a salty liquid from the body's sweat glands. This process is also called perspiration.

Sweating is an essential function that helps your body stay cool. Sweat is commonly found under the arms, on the feet, and on the palms of the hands.

Sweating
Sweating

Alternative Names

Perspiration

Considerations

How much you sweat depends on how many sweat glands you have. A person is born with about two to four million sweat glands. The glands start to become fully active during puberty. Women have more sweat glands then men, but men's glands are more active.

Sweating is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is not under your control. Because sweating is the body's natural way of regulating temperature, people sweat more when it's hot outside. People also sweat more when they exercise, or in response to situations that make them nervous, angry, embarrassed, or afraid.

Excessive sweating may also be a symptom of menopause .

See also:

Common Causes

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Cancer
  • Emotional or stressful situations (anxiety)
  • Essential hyperhidrosis
  • Exercise
  • Fever and infections
  • Infection
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Medications such as thyroid hormone, morphine, drugs to reduce fever, and medicines to treat mental disorders
  • Menopause
  • Spicy foods (known as "gustatory sweating")
  • Warm temperatures
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or narcotic painkillers

Home Care

After sweating, you should:

  • Drink plenty of water to replace lost body fluids
  • Slightly lower room temperature to prevent more sweating
  • Wash your face and body if the salt from sweat has dried on your skin

Call your health care provider if

Contact your health care provider if sweating occurs with:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Rapid, pounding heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

These symptoms may indicate a problem, such as hyperthyroidism or infection.

Also call your health care provider if:

  • You sweat a lot or sweating lasts for a long time or can't be explained
  • Sweating occurs with or is followed by chest pain or pressure
  • You also lose weight or usually sweat during sleep

References

Robertson D. Disorders of the autonomic nervous system. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 81.

Saper CB. Autonomic disorders and their management. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 445.

Updated: 5/29/2011

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com