Are you wondering how to know if you have a sweating problem?
If your sweating is really abnormal , and why?
Hyperhidrosis is the medical name for excessive sweating. This is the most common sweating problem, although there are others that I will also mention.
Different elements must be taken into account in order to know the type of hyperhidrosis, its causes, its severity, and of course the treatments that will be most suitable.
Many people suffering from excessive sweat seek information on the internet rather than from their doctor to better understand their hyperhidrosis and find solutions , because the medical profession often wrongly considers hyperhidrosis as a trivial and not very bothersome symptom.
It is to respond to this strong demand for information that I created the site you are currently on, the Hyperhidrosis Observatory!
In this article, I help you explore the answer to this question: do you have a sweating problem?
As well as it can be answered without consulting a health professional. I will also explain how the medical diagnosis of hyperhidrosis is made, and who can do it.
Good reading !
Head to the comments for any sharing, questions, etc.
Consult a doctor or do your own self-diagnosis?
Here are different elements that will help you determine if you have hyperhidrosis.
Some will prefer to read medical and scientific definitions of hyperhidrosis, others the list of symptoms of hyperhidrosis, and some will prefer to answer a few questions to find out if they have hyperhidrosis and what type.
I offer you these different options.
You can of course also decide to consult a doctor, a dermatologist or another health professional to talk about this problem of excessive sweating.
All doctors can make the diagnosis of hyperhidrosis. It is not necessarily necessary to consult a dermatologist to find out if you have hyperhidrosis .
It’s quite easy to tell yourself if you’re suffering from excessive sweating . Most of the time, doctors will not do additional testing to diagnose hyperhidrosis.
On the other hand, they will be able to carry out examinations to rule out secondary hyperhidrosis, due to another disease, which would be important to treat.
Definition of hyperhidrosis, the most common sweating problem
It is sometimes useful to know the precise, medical or even encyclopedic definition of a disease. How to find the one that has consensus?
One of the ways is to identify the definition of hyperhidrosis used by dermatologists (skin specialists, and therefore a priori of hyperhidrosis) or even neurologists ( since perspiration is regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system), endocrinologists (because hormones play a role in excessive sweat) or even cardiothoracic surgeons (who perform sympathectomies, the operation against hyperhidrosis of the hands, feet or armpits).
I looked into medical literature in English, since it is the language most used to communicate scientifically in the world, including in the medical sector.
Here is a selection of definitions that meet these criteria (translations carried out by myself).
The typical patient has visibly damp hands or armpits and sweat often drains from these areas.Definition of a cardio-thoracic surgery work. Masters of Cardiothoracic Surgery, 2013
It is sweating more than is necessary to maintain normal thermoregulation. Clinically, noticeable sweating occurs in different conditions where it should not normally occur, or not as much in excess, often leading to occupational disability and social embarrassment.Definition of a work of internal medicine. Diagnosis: A Symptom-based Approach in Internal Medicine, 2011
It is sweating excessively, beyond the normal physiological reaction that occurs in response to temperature fluctuations.Definition of a dermatology work. European Handbook of Dermatological Treatments, 2015
You see that there are 2 main ways to define hyperhidrosis:
- depending on the mechanism which is at the origin: a disruption of the body’s thermo-regulation system , which over-reacts in the event of a change in external or internal temperature of the body;
- depending on the symptoms felt by the person or visible to an external observer, linked to excessive sweating .
We will now see what the symptoms of hyperhidrosis are.
What are the signs that you have a sweating problem (hyperhidrosis)?
The main symptom of hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating .
But when is sweating considered excessive?
Most people sweat when they exercise, when they are in a hot environment, or when they are anxious or stressed.
The excessive sweating associated with hyperhidrosis far exceeds this normal sweating, although we cannot give more objective precision on the quantity of sweat expected to speak of excessive sweat .
To talk about hyperhidrosis, we need to clarify these episodes of excessive sweating, which must:
- take place at least once a week ;
- extend over a period of several months ;
- be annoying in personal, social or professional life.
Questions to ask yourself to know if you have hyperhidrosis
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
You will see that you will easily be able to answer it and that this will help you to better understand your possible hyperhidrosis , its type, its intensity, its possible causes.
Of course, a trusted doctor should ideally confirm or deny the diagnosis , and particularly explore the possibility of secondary hyperhidrosis (see the 6 most common causes of excessive sweating, soon in English ).
Location: where do I sweat the most?
All parts of the body can be affected , without exception. However, the most frequently affected parts are:
- the feet,
- the face (upper lip, forehead, head , scalp ),
- the thorax (between the chest),
- the back,
- groin folds,
- buttock hyperhidrosis,
- groin sweating.
1, 2, 3, 4… or all parts of the body may be affected. We speak of generalized hyperhidrosis if all parts of the body are affected at approximately the same intensity and frequency.
It is also important to know if sweating is distributed symmetrically, that is to say that we sweat as much on the left as on the right.
Intensity: do I sweat “a lot”?
This is a very difficult question to answer; some people will say they sweat a lot even though their hands are only sweaty, others will perhaps say they are less bothered even though theirs are dripping… it’s a very subjective question , it’s up to the person to judge if she sweats a lot or not.
Some doctors and researchers have still suggested trying to quantify the intensity of hyperhidrosis a little better.
To do this, they created, tested and validated a small test which is widely used in studies carried out on treatments against hyperhidrosis and to make the medical diagnosis of hyperhidrosis.
This test is called the HDSS score : Hyperhidrosis Disease Severity Scale.
Here it is in one of its original versions, in English, to evaluate hyperhidrosis of the armpits:
And here is a translation of the HDSS into French.
You can also download it in PDF, with more instructions for use by doctors or other healthcare professionals: HDSS score in French in PDF :
If you check box 1 or 2, your hyperhidrosis is classified as mild or moderate .
If you check box 3 or 4, your hyperhidrosis is said to be severe .
The initial trigger: always?
It is important to know if you have always been sweating (that is to say since childhood, or even as a baby, your parents may have noticed), since adolescence, or since a very specific event (operation, shock ) . emotional, illness, change of contraceptive, etc.).
If you still have your parents, they can tell you when they noticed you were sweating more than normal: baby ?
At primary school ? To college ? After ? You can also simply call on your childhood memories. Sometimes hyperhidrosis only appears during adolescence.
If hyperhidrosis appeared in adulthood , it may be more difficult to identify the precise cause. It is necessary to carefully trace your medical and therapeutic course, and the help of a doctor can be useful.
For example, antidepressants can trigger excessive sweating .
Frequency: all the time? every day but not continuously?
Some people sweat continuously, all day, from certain parts of the body, generally at a “moderate” intensity.
Others sweat almost every day, but not continuously, for a few minutes for example. Still others sweat especially at night .
It is important to identify the frequency of occurrence of hyperhidrosis, both to know the type of hyperhidrosis (primary or secondary) but also to already have clues on the factors aggravating hyperhidrosis , to potentially remedy it.
This is the case, for example, with the humidity level in the room, stress at work, the materials of certain clothes, etc.
Triggering or aggravating factors: when is it worse?
It has been shown that 2 factors mainly aggravate hyperhidrosis: high temperature (at least above 20°) and stress .
You’ve probably noticed that during an exam or an important meeting, you sweat more.
Other factors seem to exist in my opinion and some rare studies for some: the absence of ventilation, skin-skin contact, hot drinks and particularly coffee, static positions, tight clothing… Everyone will be able to find the factors which trigger his hyperhidrosis.
This is really an important point to start finding solutions to live better with your hyperhidrosis without treatment .
The inconvenience caused: does it bother me a lot?
What activities does your hyperhidrosis affect? You can no longer carry out certain tasks of daily life or your profession? Don’t you dare touch people anymore?
You can’t dress or wear shoes the way you want?
Identifying the daily activities during which hyperhidrosis bothers you the most is not masochism. Asking yourself in detail about the impact of your hyperhidrosis is a good way to start taking into consideration the impact of the disease on your life and, above all, finding simple ways to remedy it .
For example, you may need sweat-wicking sandals or slides in the summer, otherwise you risk slipping in your shoes.
Result: do I have hyperhidrosis?
You have hyperhidrosis like approximately 2% of the population if you answered yes to the question “do I sweat a lot” .
You have primary hyperhidrosis (like 95% of people suffering from hyperhidrosis) if you have been sweating for at least 6 months and you answer yes to at least 2 of these criteria:
- excessive sweating is located on both sides of the body and is rather symmetrical;
- it affects the activities of your daily life;
- it occurs more than once a week;
- it started before you turned 25;
- other people in your family suffer from it;
- you don’t sweat at night.
You may have secondary hyperhidrosis (the remaining 5%) if: you sweat especially at night OR your hyperhidrosis occurred following a very specific event OR your sweating is not distributed symmetrically.
In this case, it is strongly recommended to consult a sweating doctor. Secondary hyperhidrosis can be improved by treating the disease causing the hyperhidrosis.
In any case, you already know your hyperhidrosis better and you have identified causative or aggravating factors on which it is possible to act to reduce your excessive sweating or simply its impact on your personal or professional life.
Other sweating illnesses
There are several other sweating problems besides hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Here are some of the common sweating problems:
- Anhidrosis : This is the opposite of hyperhidrosis. People with anhidrosis do not sweat or sweat very little, which can cause problems regulating body temperature (overheating).
- Bromhidrosis : This is an unpleasant (more than average) body odor caused by the breakdown of sweat by bacteria on the skin. This can happen even without excessive sweating.
- Miliaria : Also known as “heat stroke,” it occurs when the sweat channels in the skin are blocked, leading to a rash and excessive sweating.
- Hidradenitis suppurativa : This is an inflammatory skin disease that causes painful nodules to form, usually in the armpits, groin and genital area. This can lead to increased sweating due to the infection.
- Frey Syndrome : This is a rare condition in which excessive sweating occurs on the face during digestion due to improper nerve regeneration after injury.
- Chromhidrosis or chromhidrosis, also called cutaneous cyanopathy, stearrhea nigricans or cutaneous chromocronia : it is a very rare disease that causes our sweat to be colored (gray-blue or dark gray).
Would you like me to elaborate a little more on any of the above issues? Gladly let me know in the comments, I will make it an open access article! For any comments or questions, please comment in any case!
Do you have any comments or questions? Your comments are welcome 🙂 !
You may also like:
Hornberger et al. criteria. Hornberger J, Grimes K, Naumann M, Glaser DA, Lowe NJ, Naver H, Ahn S, Stolman LP; Multi-Specialty Working Group on the Recognition, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis. Recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of primary focal hyperhidrosis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004 Aug;51(2):274-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2003.12.029 . PMID: 15280848.
Images: Arora S. Aerospace Dermatology. Indian J Dermatol . 2017;62(1):79-84 . doi:10.4103/0019-5154.198051
Raza N, Dar N, Mustafvi S, Zafar O. Ross syndrome with generalized anhidrosis and localized disabling compensatory hyperhidrosis. Ann Saudi Med . 2008;28(1):53-54. doi:10.5144/0256-4947.2008.53
Written by Nelly Darbois
I founded this website in 2012. Since then, I’ve been providing information and positive support to people suffering from excessive sweating. I’m also a physical therapist and science writer, living in French Alps 🌞❄️.