In order to understand what is excessive sweating, we first must understand what normal sweating is. Sweating is normal, whist if excessive sweating places a strain on our daily lives, it can be considered abnormal. If you find that your work, hobbies, schooling, clothes choices and social life is impaired with excessive sweating, then you should consider treating your condition.

  • Sweating is normal, and is a way to keep your body from overheating
  • If excessive sweating plays an impact on your life, it can be considered as abnormal
  • There are over 3 million sweat glands on the body
  • Sweat glands or "eccrine glands" are concentrated on the palms, soles, underarms as well as the forehead and scalp area
  • The highest concentration of sweat glands are often the most problematic areas for suffers of hyperhidrosis
  • Sweat glands are activated by nerves from the sympathetic nervous system
  • Anxiety, stress, heat, and drugs can all play a role in excessive sweating
  • Hyperdidrosis can impact on schooling, work and relationships
  • Excessive sweating is poorly managed in the community, however effective treatments are readily available


Sweating is part of the normal physiological makeup of humans, and is designed to keep the body from overheating.

Normal sweating occurs when: you exercise, you get hot, or occasionally you get anxious or stressed.

Abnormal sweating is when: sweating affects your work, school or social life, or when sweating determines what you wear. Abnormal sweating is when you carry around napkins, towels, antiperspirants and powders. Abnormal sweating is when you avoid raising your arms, or think about sweating during the waking hours of the day. Abnormal sweating is when normal things that should stop sweating don’t actually work! Abnormal sweating is when you are reading this! Patients who have normal sweat patterns never read this paragraph, there’s just no need to!

There are essentially two types of excessive sweating- primary and secondary causes. By far, the most common type of hyperhidrosis is Primary.

 Primary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating NOT caused by a medical condition or side effect of drugs. This form of sweating occurs on specific parts of the body including the underarms, hands, feet, and face. This form of sweating is symmetrical (affects both side almost equally) and is not present when you sleep. There maybe a family history in 1/3 of cases of primary sweating. 95% of sweating cases we see at Sweat Free are primary hyperhidrosis.

 Primary Sweating usually:

 Occurs in childhood

Affects areas such as the hands, feet and underarms

Stops when you sleep

Impairs daily activities

Affects both sides of your body

Is usually constant, but may worsen in Summer

 Secondary Hyperhidrosis is very rare, and maybe due to medical conditions and drugs.

 Secondary sweating usually:

Occurs everywhere on the body

Occurs when you sleep at night

Sweating may start as late onset (after 25 years old)

Does NOT involve focal areas such as the hands, underarms and feet

Some drug can cause sweating or make sweating worse. The most common culprit is caffeine and energy drinks. If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, grab a de-caff and reduce your caffeine intake. Tablets such as cold and flu medication, as well as some types of anti-depressives can make sweating worse. The pattern of drug related sweating is very different from Primary Sweating, secondary cause of sweating usually affect the whole body, and does not concentrate on areas such as the armpits, hands or feet.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if drugs are suspected as a cause of sweating.

Very rarely, excessive sweating is secondary to medical conditions. This form of sweating is rather unique. It usually affects the whole body, a condition known as generalized hyperhidrosis. Sweating occurs in the sleep and patients may suffer from ‘night sweats’. Secondary causes of sweating often have a later onset compared to Primary causes of sweating.

Medical conditions that can cause excessive sweating include:

Drugs: such as caffeine, anti-depressives, pseudoephedrine

Infections: TB, Malaria (you would know if you had this!)

Systemic or Metabolic disease: Thyroid disease, carcinoid syndrome, phaechromos., diabetes and obesity

Cancer: very, very rare. Reports of lung cancer, and brain tumors. This accounts for less than 0.1% of all cases of excessive sweating, so don’t stress!