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Excessive Sweating Might Be Caused by Overactive Thyroid

Excessive perspiration, hyperhidrosis, can cause a lot of suffering. When it is caused by hyperthyroidism, the cause should be addressed.

Some people really sweat! We’re not talking about a few drops of perspiration on the forehead. There is an actual medical term for excessive sweating: hyperhidrosis. These individuals are often embarrassed by clammy hands, soaking wet feet or soggy armpits. They can go through a couple of shirts in a day.

One reader shared the frustration and desperation this can cause:

“I have had severe sweating since I was 20 years old, with sweat from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. Going to work raises my temperature enough to cause an episode that lasts for at least two hours. There I am, standing in front of the class with large stains at my arms and chest and a dripping face. It makes a very bad impression on my students.

“I want to exercise, but the slightest activity triggers a very wet response and my face turns bright red. This persists for at least 45 minutes after cooling down.

“No sunscreen I’ve tried can stand up to this sweat. The worst is when it runs off my face and into my eyes — it really, really stings. I rarely exercise anymore because it is such a trial.”

Another reader shared this story:

“I’ve been bothered most of my life by perspiration that first became really noticeable during my first year of high school when puberty set in. My mother purchased a strong antiperspirant, but it just sloughed off onto my clothes. The underarms of all my garments turned yellow and waxy with a substance that would not come off with soaps, detergents, vinegar, salt or sunshine.

“Later, my doctor prescribed Pro-Banthine for an ulcer. One side effect was that my perspiration quit being a problem, but my doctor felt that continuing this medication wouldn’t be safe. I was once again dripping from my armpits.

Further Struggles with Excessive Sweating:

“Underarm shields worn under clothing only got so saturated that they caused chafing. I learned to wear an item only once before laundering and never bought anything that needed dry cleaning. Finally, I tried rubbing alcohol. As soon as I was out of my daily shower, I splashed alcohol on my underarms. Then by extending my arms over my head, allowing air to get to the armpits, I was able to get a little drier from the evaporation of the alcohol. I also took a small bottle of alcohol with me to the office and went into the restroom to re-apply during the work day.

“This method took away some of the smell. Evidently the alcohol killed some of the bacteria that feed on perspiration.

“I wear all-cotton clothing and wash it after each wearing. Perhaps others with this problem will benefit from the alcohol method.”

Hyperhidrosis is challenging for both patients and health care providers. Oral medications like propantheline (Pro-Banthine) have anticholinergic side effects that can cut down on sweating. However, adverse reactions such as blurred vision, palpitations, loss of taste, headache, mental confusion and sexual dysfunction are a drawback.

Some doctors inject Botox (botulinum toxin) to block nerves involved in sweating. Others perform nerve surgery or remove sweat glands from the armpits. On the whole, however, treatments for this problem are not simple. Prescription aluminum-based antiperspirants offer an alternative, but there is controversy about the safety of these potent aluminum salts over the long term.

Excessive Sweating Could Be Caused by Thyroid Condition:

Q. Recently, someone complained to you of excessive sweating. That person might have an endocrine problem. I used to sweat so much that I would ruin my clothes. This stopped once I had my hyperactive thyroid removed.

A. Excessive sweating can be a symptom of too much thyroid hormone. When a person is bothered by hyperhidrosis, a diagnostic workup should definitely look for thyroid imbalance, among other problems..

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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