Primary reason we sweat

When It Comes to Sweat, What’s Considered Normal?


Sign up for more FREE Everyday Health newsletters.

Everybody sweats. In fact, as you read this article, you’re likely sweating — possibly so little that you don’t notice it, and possibly more than that.

Sweating is a normal, essential bodily function. Its main purpose is to cool your body off when it’s in danger of overheating. But like nearly every other bodily function, it’s possible to sweat too much.

There’s a wide range in how much people sweat, with your gender, physical activity level, and individual genetic makeup all playing a role. If you feel like you sweat a lot but aren’t particularly bothered by it, there’s no cause for concern.

If, on the other hand, you feel like your sweating is interfering with your comfort or ability to function on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that you’re sweating too much. But this standard is subjective, and one person’s “too much” might not strike someone else as problematic.

Why We Sweat

Sweating is one of the body’s main mechanisms for staying cool, ensuring that your internal temperature doesn’t rise to a harmful level.

“Sweat is used to dissipate heat,” explains Alisha Plotner, MD, a dermatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “When our skin develops moisture on the surface, that moisture is evaporated and cools the skin. That’s the primary reason we produce sweat.”

There are two scenarios in which increased sweating is normal, according to Dr. Plotner: when we become overheated, and when we’re nervous or anxious.

Anxiety-induced sweating is intended to be part of our body’s cooling function, says Plotner. “From an evolutionary perspective, if somebody is nervous, and they need to run away from a potential threat, then sweating might be beneficial to help dissipate the heat that would be generated,” she notes.

Contrary to widespread belief, Plotner says, sweating doesn’t play much of a role in removing toxins from your body. Your liver and kidneys do most of that, with sweat glands contributing “in a very minimal manner.”

Sweat glands are found all over the body — the average person typically has between two and four million of them, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. There are two main types of sweat glands: eccrine, which open onto the skin’s surface, and apocrine, which open into hair follicles.

Eccrine sweat glands are present on most areas of your skin, but tend to be found in large numbers on the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, forehead, cheeks, and armpits.

Apocrine sweat glands are common in your armpits and groin area. They produce a thicker type of sweat that, when it comes into contact with bacteria on the skin’s surface, can result in body odor.

Your fitness level and your gender both play a role in how much you sweat, as physically fit people and men tend to sweat more than unfit people and women.

In a study published in September 2010 in Experimental Physiology, researchers found that while exercising in hot conditions, fit men sweated significantly more than fit women — with fit women having just as many active sweat glands, but sweating less from each gland.

Unfit men sweated less than fit men or women, while unfit women sweated the least. The differences between fit and unfit members of each gender showed that being fit resulted in a greater increase in sweating during exercise among men than women, with more efficient cooling of the body’s core temperature.

When Is Sweat Considered to Be Excessive?

Sweat glands are activated by your nervous system, which explains why certain neurologic conditions can lead to excessive sweating — such as a brain injury following a stroke.

Hormonal changes, such as those associated with menopause, and health conditions like diabetes, as well as the use of certain hormone drugs, can also cause an increase in sweating, according to Plotner.

Excessive sweating is known as hyperhidrosis.

Most of the time, Plotner says, excessive sweating isn’t associated with any underlying health condition. Instead, it’s caused by overactivity of the normal neurological pathways that cause sweating. This is called primary hyperhidrosis, and it often runs in families.

When excessive sweating is caused by an underlying health condition, it’s called secondary hyperhidrosis.

“If we know that there’s an underlying cause, then it’s important to focus on that cause and treat it when possible,” says Plotner.

Sweating is considered unnecessary or excessive, Plotner says, if it occurs outside normal scenarios — like overheating or anxiety — or if the amount interferes with your ability to function.

For example, it’s not considered normal for mild heat to cause large amounts of underarm sweating.

When to Seek Treatment

As a general rule of thumb, if you think you may sweat more than you should, but you’re not bothered by the problem, you don’t necessarily need to seek treatment, assuming no underlying cause of the excess sweating is found, says Plotner.

Though you should consider seeking treatment, she adds, if your sweating makes it difficult for you to turn doorknobs, type on a computer, or shake someone’s hand — all of which can have an impact on your professional life.

But your personal and social life is also important, Plotner adds, so sweating that causes you embarrassment or makes you hesitant to participate in social events should also be addressed.

Hyperhidrosis can affect particular areas of the body or the whole body, Plotner notes. The most commonly affected areas are the face and scalp — known as craniofacial hyperhidrosis — as well as the armpits, palms of your hands, and soles of your feet. Some people have excess sweating in the groin or trunk area as well, she adds.

Regardless of where or exactly how much you’re sweating, if it bothers you, Plotner says you may be a candidate for treatment.

Treatments range from topicals, to oral drugs, to injections, with each option carrying its own benefits and risks.

“I think it’s important that patients are aware that there are treatments available,” Plotner emphasizes. “If excess sweating is interfering with your personal or professional life, then you should see your board-certified dermatologist to discuss your options.”

Chapter 8 question 29 2 2 pts tco 8 what is the

Palmitic acid Chapter 19, 20 Question 35 2 / 2 pts (TCO 10) All of the following are physiological changes that typically occur with aging EXCEPT: decreased lean body mass. decreased bone density. decreased fat mass. decreased immune function. Chapter 20 Question 36 20 / 20 pts (TCO 1) What is the difference among food poisoning, food allergy, food infection, and food intoxication? Your Answer: Food poisoning often refers to eating contaminated, spoiled or toxic foods. Food allergy refers to the progression of allergic diseases from eating or coming inn contact with certain foods. Food infection–different from food poisoning–is when the food contains bacteria or other microbes which infect the body after it is eaten. Food intoxication, which is somewhat similar to food poisoning, refers to when food contains toxins, when consumed causes illnesses. A food allergy is an adverse immune response to a food protein. Food allergy is distinct from other adverse responses to food, such as food intolerance, pharmacologic reactions, and toxin-mediated reactions. Food poisoning or a food borne illness is any illness resulting from contaminated food. There are two types of food poisoning/food borne illness: 1. Food Infection – Refers to the presence of bacteria or other microbes which infect the body after consumption; can be viral or bacterial. 2. Food Intoxication – Refers to the ingestion of toxins contained within the food, including those bacterially produced by exotoxins, which can happen even when the microbe that produced the toxin is no longer present or able to cause infection.

Some skin-care products make big claims—especially those that are supposed to detox your face. These things, usually mud or charcoal face masks, often have strong colors and smells that make you feel like they’re really doing something. And it’s true—they might really leave you with smoother, cleaner-feeling skin.

But does that actually count as a detox? What are these things really doing to your skin? And is it even a good thing? Here’s what experts want you to know.

What does “detox” really mean?

In a medical context, detoxing means removing toxins—poisons—from the body. In general, your kidneys and liver do a very good job of this all on their own, Melissa Piliang, M.D., dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF, meaning that you don’t need to go out of your way to detox or cleanse your body.

And it’s true that tiny amounts of toxins have been found in sweat (like urea and uric acid). But getting rid of these things isn’t the primary reason why we sweat, it’s a by-product of a bunch of other processes, Tatyana Petukhova, M.D., a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF. (The main reason we sweat, of course, would be temperature regulation.) So, as SELF explained previously, you couldn’t detox the rest of your body through your skin even if you wanted to.

“For the most part, the skin is not a huge excretory organ the same way that your liver and kidneys are,” Dr. Petukhova says. “When people talk about the idea of ‘detoxing skin,’ it’s more about what you can do to the surface to protect your skin from the outside environment more so than clearing out what’s on the inside.”

So products that claim to detox the skin aren’t really removing toxins from your body. Instead, they’re talking about removing things from the surface of your skin, such as dirt, excess oil, dead skin, oxidative molecules in the environment, and pollution, Dr. Petukhova says.

These are things that form or can land on the skin and “wreak havoc on the local environment,” Dr. Piliang explains. Indeed, left alone on your skin, those things can definitely contribute to the development of acne and an overall dull, dry, or rough quality. They’re not exactly good things to leave on your face, but they aren’t the kind of toxins that are going to poison you. So do you really need a detox product to get rid of them?

Do detox beauty products really work?

Whether or not these products work depends on what you want them to do and the kind of product you’re using.

When it comes to charcoal, the evidence is not particularly convincing. In cases of poisoning or drug overdoses, doctors might have a patient ingest activated charcoal to draw the offending substance out of their body, SELF explained previously. So the thought is that putting it on your face will similarly draw out oil and other impurities, Dr. Piliang says. However, there really aren’t any studies showing that topically applied charcoal is any good at this.

In fact, the evidence we have for any uses for topical charcoal is pretty limited. Some small studies have found that it can reduce the smell associated with chronic wounds and that it may be useful in treating skin-related symptoms of erythropoietic protoporphyria, a rare inherited metabolic disorder.

That said, the simple act of putting something on your face and then washing it off will likely take some oil and dirt with it and may even exfoliate the skin a bit, leaving you with cleaner and smoother skin regardless. With a mask like this, you’ll get a good look at your pores so it might seem like some bad stuff is really being drawn out—but whether or not that’s actually happening is another question. “People really do think that drawing out these toxins and that’s not what it’s doing,” Dr. Piliang says. “A good cleanser would do the same thing.”

This article was created in collaboration with the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

Embarrassingly clammy handshakes, feet that slip-slide off even the tackiest of yoga mats, cute shoes ruined, smeared makeup, damped-down hair, and armpits that soak shirts like a leaky faucet. Sometimes there’s too much of a good thing.

And, yes, sweating is actually a good thing…usually.

Like it or not, sweating is human, necessary, and natural. Sweating helps the body to maintain a healthy internal temperature so we can function and survive. Think of sweating as a personal air conditioning system; it kicks in when you need it most—like on hot, humid days or when you’re in the midst of a butt-kicking workout (and, uh, yeah, butt sweat is a thing). There’s also, of course, the stress sweat that emerges during job interviews, presentations, and other now-I’m-in-the-hot-seat situations.

So, sweat is normal. But yes, it can be annoying at times.

But what if you sweat a lot. Like a lot, a lot? Like, four or five times more than your friends are sweating, regardless of stress, exercise, or the weather? Such extreme, uncontrollable sweating is actually a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. Hyperhidrosis can soak, drip on, smear, saturate, and ruin many things in a person’s life—from clothing, shoes, makeup, hair, and technology tools to self-confidence and well-being. Living with excessive sweating can take a hefty toll. In fact, one study published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology looked at the rates of anxiety and depression in a sample of dermatology patients and found that both mental health conditions were much more common in patients with hyperhidrosis than in patients without it.

But if you’ve never heard of hyperhidrosis before, you’re not alone. Even though it’s a relatively common health condition (affecting approximately 4.8% of the population and 8.8% of people ages 18 to 39) many people—even doctors—still don’t know much about it, nor its life-damaging impacts, how it’s diagnosed, and the many ways to treat it.

It’s time to change that.

An important thing to understand is that there are actually two different types of hyperhidrosis: primary hyperhidrosis and secondary hyperhidrosis.

  • Primary hyperhidrosis is a medical condition unto itself. It’s sometimes called idiopathic hyperhidrosis because it’s excessive sweating with no discernible cause. It is its own thing.
  • Secondary hyperhidrosis is extreme, unwanted sweating that’s being caused by another medical condition or by a medication that a person is taking. Some common causes of secondary hyperhidrosis include serious medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and even pregnancy. So, yeah, you want to get your sweating problem checked out. Medications that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis include: certain antidepressants, some beta blockers (used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems), some treatments for schizophrenia, cancer treatments, and many more (the International Hyperhidrosis Society lists at least 240 meds that can cause excessive sweating along with more than 70 medical conditions.)

What’s Sweat?

  • Larger text sizeLarge text sizeRegular text size

You’re biking up a hill, pedaling as hard as you can. You’re almost there and — what’s this? Your back is all wet and so is your face. Don’t sweat it — it’s only sweat!

Your body works best when its temperature is about 98.6ºF (37ºC). When your body gets hotter than that, your brain doesn’t like it — it wants your body to stay cool and comfortable. So the part of your brain that controls temperature, called the hypothalamus (say: hi-po-THAL-uh-mus), sends a message to your body, telling it to sweat.

Then special glands in your skin called — what else? — sweat glands start making sweat. Sweat is also known as perspiration (say: pur-spuh-RAY-shun), and it is made almost completely of water, with tiny amounts of other chemicals like ammonia (say: uh-MOWN-yuh), urea (say: yoo-REE-uh), salts, and sugar. (Ammonia and urea are left over when your body breaks down protein.)

The sweat leaves your skin through tiny holes called pores. When the sweat hits the air, the air makes it evaporate (this means it turns from a liquid to a vapor). As the sweat evaporates off your skin, you cool down.

Sweat is a great cooling system, but if you’re sweating a lot on a hot day or after playing hard you could be losing too much water through your skin. Then you need to put liquid back in your body by drinking plenty of water so you won’t get dehydrated (say: dee-HI-drayt-ed).

Why Does Sweat Smell?

Sweat isn’t just wet — it can be kind of stinky, too. But the next time you get a whiff of yourself after running around outside and want to blame your sweat glands, hold on!

Sweat by itself doesn’t smell at all. It’s the bacteria that live on your skin that mix with the sweat and give it a stinky smell. And when you reach puberty, special hormones affect the glands in your armpits — these glands make sweat that can really smell.

Luckily, regular washing with soap and water can usually keep stinky sweat under control. Many teens and adults also find that wearing deodorant (say: dee-OH-der-ent) or antiperspirant (say: an-tee-PUR-sper-ent) helps.

So don’t worry about a little sweat — it’s totally normal and everybody sweats. Sometimes too much sweating can be a sign that there is something wrong in the body, but this is rare in kids. If you notice more sweat, it’s usually just a sign that it’s time to start using a deodorant or antiperspirant. But if you think you have a sweat problem, talk to your parent or your doctor about it.

Physiology of Normal Sweating

Humans have up to four million sweat glands distributed over the body. Approximately three million of these are eccrine sweat glands. Eccrine glands secrete an odorless, clear fluid that serves to aid in the regulation of body temperature by allowing heat loss through evaporation. Eccrine glands are found in higher density on the soles of the feet, the forehead, the palms, and the cheeks. Apocrine sweat glands are located in limited areas—the axilla and urogenital regions—and produce a thick, odorless fluid that undergoes bacterial decomposition, leading to substances with strong odors. The ratio of apocrine to eccrine glands is one to one in the axillae and one to ten elsewhere.
The secretory portion of eccrine glands produces an ultrafiltrate that is then processed by cells lining the duct portion, where reabsorption of sodium occurs, leading to hypotonic sweat and conserving electrolytes. An acclimatized person can produce up to several liters of sweat per hour and ten liters per day. For nonhuman species, apocrine sweat provides pheromone signaling that is important in mating, parenting, and other interactions; it is unclear what the role is for apocrine sweat in humans.
There are also mixed sweat glands called apoeccrine glands. These are found in human axillary and perianal areas. Apoeccrine glands develop during puberty from eccrine precursors. The function of this type of gland and its role in the pathophysiology of hyperhidrosis is unknown, but in some patients up to 45% of the axillary sweat glands are of this type. In addition, in vitro studies have shown the apoeccrine gland to secrete sweat at a sevenfold higher rate than the eccrine gland does. (In vitro sweat production by the apoeccrine gland was stimulated by epinephrine and methacholine.)
Both eccrine and apocrine sweat glands are innervated by postganglionic sympathetic fibers. For eccrine glands, the major neurotransmitter is acetylcholine, and for apocrine glands, catecholamines are the major neurotransmitters. Spinal cord segments from T2 to T8 provide innervation to the skin of the upper limbs, T2 to T4 innervate the skin of the face, T4 to T12 innervate the skin of the trunk, and T10 to L2 innervate the skin of the lower limbs.
The thermoregulatory center in the hypothalamus controls body temperature by regulating eccrine sweat output and blood flow to the skin. This center responds not only to changes in core body temperature, but also to hormones, endogenous pyrogens, physical activity, and emotions. Both emotional and physical activities are thought to affect the thermoregulatory center via the limbic system.
The sweat glands on the palms and soles appear to be activated primarily by emotional stimuli, while axillary sweating is stimulated by both thermoregulatory changes as well as emotional stimuli. Since palmar and plantar glands do not differ from sweat glands in other areas with respect to morphology, innervation, and neurotransmitter response, one theory suggests that there is a distinct hypothalamic thermoregulatory center that controls sweating in the palms and soles and sometimes in the axillae. Differing from the regulatory center that controls sweating in other areas, this center is thought to receive input exclusively from the cortex and to be unresponsive to temperature changes. Supporting this theory is the finding that emotional sweating is not seen during sleep or sedation.
Emotional sweating is thought to be an atavistic (ancient or ancestral) human function that was important when hunting animals or fighting enemies. Physiologic amounts of sweat on the palms and soles can improve friction by controlling the humidity of the stratum corneum, leading to an improved grip. Generalized sweating cools the body when intense physical activity is expected. In addition, increased eccrine sweat output in the axillae produced by emotional stimuli will allow natural odors from prior apocrine gland secretion to aerosolize and function as pheromone signals.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *