Summer Sweat, Hyperhidrosis & Thermoregulation
Sweat, also known as perspiration, is the way your body cools itself down. When your body begins to overheat, you sweat to regulate its temperature. This process is called thermoregulation. Sweat is a clear and salty liquid produced by two main glands in the skin, your endocrine glands and apocrine glands. Endocrine glands produce most of your sweat. These glands cover your entire body but are mostly located on the palms, soles of your feet, forehead, and underarms. They begin to function shortly after birth. Apocrine glands are larger than endocrine glands. They can be found on the underarms, groin, and breast area of the body. These glands become active after puberty and are often associated with body odor. As a result of its location near hair follicles, in combination with bacteria, sweat in these areas typically smell worse despite use of regular antiperspirants.
How Does The Body Naturally Produce Sweat
Your body functions best when the body temperature is at approximately 98.6ºF. When the temperature of your body increases and starts to get hotter, your brain emits messages to the rest of your body signaling it to sweat. Sweat is composed mostly of water combined with a small amount of other chemicals: sugar, salt, ammonia, urea, sodium, chloride, and potassium. Ammonia and urea are the remains your body consists of after breaking down protein. Sweat comes out of the skin through tiny holes called pores. When sweat comes in contact with the air, the liquid turns to a vapor which then evaporates off your skin allowing you to feel cooler.
Aside from cooling down, your body can produce sweat for many other reasons. You can sweat from experiencing emotional feelings such as stress, eating hot or spicy foods, fighting a medical condition, an infection or fever, experiencing side effects from medication, and undergoing hormonal changes including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. One of the most well-known factors that produce sweat is exercise. When you exercise or workout the muscles in your body produce heat. Since your body needs to cool down to function you then begin to sweat. Your heart rate and blood pressure also increase during this time, which means you start to sweat more than usual. You can also get rid of toxins in your body during increased perspiration.
Another way of inducing sweat is by sitting in a sauna. A sauna is a small room that provides intense heat sessions, allowing the body to undergo deep sweating. This can reduce levels of heavy metals found in the body – copper, zinc, nickel, and mercury. Deep sweating also cleanses the skin by removing dead skin cells and rinsing out bacteria from the epidermal layer and sweat ducts.
Sweat and Hyperhidrosis
From sweaty hands to sweaty feet, sweating is a natural and healthy process for the body. Everyone sweats; however, there is a condition called hyperhidrosis where an individual can produce excess sweating. Everyone is different and there is no set amount on how much sweating is considered normal; however, there are a few signs when someone is sweating more than their body needs it to. Hyperhidrosis can affect an individual’s personal lifestyle if they’re sweating for no reason at all. This becomes noticeable if someone finds themselves having to change clothes multiple times throughout to day due to increased sweat. One can also become socially withdrawn from others because they are embarrassed of sweating too much. They might avoid shaking hands with another individual or partaking in social activities. Individuals who sweat profusely are also more prone to skin infections.
Types of Hyperhidrosis
Hyperhidrosis can be general or a particular affected area such as the underarms, or the palms and soles (known as palmoplantar hyperhidrosis) and it can be treated in several ways. Mild cases can be treated with a prescribed antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride rather than a normal deodorant available over the counter. Once applied, excessive sweating in that area can be alleviated. Botox injections are commonly used for individuals with severe hyperhidrosis. Botox (Botulinum Toxin) works by preventing the release of chemicals that signal your sweat glands such as your eccrine glands and apocrine glands to activate. Another alternative is a prescription for an FDA approved anticholinergic drug. These drugs stop the initiation of the sweat glands; however, they do come with side effects including blurred visions, heart palpitations, and urinary difficulties.
There are also various types of hyperhidrosis, classed as primary hyperhidrosis / primary axillary hyperhidrosis as well as secondary hyperhidrosis – the latter being a result of an additional underlying condition, and so this is important to discuss with your doctor, as severe cases may require additional treatment methods such as endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy.
Other variants include primary focal hyperhidrosis which is sweating that is based in one region, such as the underarms, known also as axillary hyperhidrosis, while generalized hyperhidrosis is an overall condition.
Discussing hyperhidrosis with your doctor
Sweating is our body’s natural way of keeping us cool and able to function properly during daily activities. Not only does it regulate our temperature, but it also helps with detoxing, cleansing your pores, and fighting bacteria and viruses. However, if you feel that you may have hyperhidrosis, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Michele Green, a board certified dermatologist based in NYC to discuss treatment options via contacting us online, or calling us at 212-535-3088.