Diaphoresis is a medical term for sweating, which refers to unusual heavy perspiration. Naturally, it has to be caused by something other than weather or physical activity, which is usually medicine or a health condition. If someone goes through phases of diaphoresis, it is recommended to consult a physician since this is something which can be treated.
Diaphoresis and Hyperhidrosis
When you are sweating excessively, for no apparent reason, you are suffering from diaphoresis. If it affects your whole body, it is then called secondary hyperhidrosis. When excessive perspiration is restricted to certain parts of the body like armpits and hands, it is usually caused by stress and it is known as hyperhidrosis.
Sweating is totally normal; in fact your body needs it to cool down. Whether it is caused by hot temperatures or through exercising, the sweat is there to decrease your body temperature by acting as a coolant. But when someone is sweating for abnormal reasons, it is usually caused by a health issue or from medication and it has to be taken seriously. Some of the reasons behind diaphoresis can lead to death, if not treated.
How Sweat Glands Work
Did you know that some people sweat more because they have extra sweat glands? In fact, it explains why people do so differently. When the body temperature rises, it sends a signal to the sweat glands to discharge the salty fluid, so that it can cool the skin and keep the heat down. The good news for people that sweat a lot is that it’s actually a sign that you are physically fit. If you start perspiring rapidly once you start exercising, it means that your body is functioning optimally.
For those wondering, a study has proven that women do sweat less than men and that obese people sweat more. In their case, it is because the extra weight causes extra heat while going through physical activity.
What Causes Diaphoresis
There are many health conditions that can cause diaphoresis. When consulting, the first thing a physician will do is go through the potential culprits until he finds the right ailment. Here are some of the most important causes:
When someone suffering from diabetes goes into excessive sweating, it can only mean one thing: hypoglycaemia, which is caused by a low level of blood sugar. It acts as a warning to let the person know that it needs to treat this situation by either ingesting high-sugar foods or drinks or take medications.
Other symptoms are: Stress, blurred vision, shivering and shakes, dizziness and slurred talk.
As mentioned earlier, the extra weight can cause the body to sweat excessively because the extra mass creates a surplus of heat. Obesity should not go untreated.
Profuse sweating can indicate the coming of a heart attack.
Other symptoms are: a suddenly pale face, chest pain and faintness, a shortness of breath, vomiting as well as a pain in the arm, the jaw, the neck or the back.
Of course, pregnancy is not an illness but it can also cause diaphoresis. Pregnancy creates an increase in oestrogen and progesterone hormones in the body. In fact, a woman will produce more oestrogen during one pregnancy than throughout her entire life! They can increase the body temperature and cause extra sweating. Since pregnant women put on weight, it is another factor which can raise the body heat.
Sweating during pregnancy is normal, except if it comes with a fever or vomiting. In such cases, the woman should consult her physician.
Some Forms of Cancer
Although rare, diaphoresis can happen in very particular types of cancer which are: bone cancer, liver cancer, carcinoid tumours, leukemia and lymphoma.
Menopause is another natural occurrence for women which can cause diaphoresis. Up to 85% of women actually go through excessive sweating during this period of their life. It can also happen during perimenopause, which takes place when a women stops menstruating.
Hyperthyroidism refers to an increased production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland which raises the metabolism and causes the diaphoresis.
Other symptoms are: Trembling fingers, difficulty to sleep, weight loss, stress and an increased heartbeat.
Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction which needs to be treated immediately. Usually, people who are more at risk carry an EpiPen with them (epinephrine injector), which should be used right away.
Other symptoms are: A rapid decrease in blood pressure, red and itchy skin, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, breathing difficulty and loss of consciousness.
Alcohol and drugs withdrawal
When someone stops taking drugs or alcohol they can go through a withdrawal period during when they will sweat excessively. This process should not be done alone (if possible) as it can be life threatening.
Other symptoms are: vomiting, high level of stress, confusion, shivering and extreme blood pressure changes.
This is one of the biggest causes of diaphoresis. It can happen through the use of prescription medication or even over-the-counter drugs. Some of the ones known to create such reaction are: pain medicines, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, hormonal medicine and antidepressants.