"I have a problem -- unexplained excessive sweating, like just stepping out of the shower, hair dripping wet, clothes soaked! ... It has put a big damper on my lifestyle."
"My limbs get so cold and painful … and yet my face will be sweating from the heat inside."
"What exactly causes the excessive sweating? ... I don't bother to wear makeup in the summer because there is no point - it just melts off."
These are all comments made by people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Excessive sweating is one of those bizarre symptoms that rarely make it onto lists of symptoms or particularly grab the attention of researchers. That's understandable, since we have much bigger problems.
While doctors and researchers have noted that excessive sweating can be a symptom of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, you may want to talk to your doctor about complex regional pain syndrome. It has similar symptoms and some research suggests excessive sweating may be more common in that condition.
What Causes Excessive Sweating?
Several factors could be responsible for our sweating, either on their own or in combination. They include:
- Autonomic nervous system dysfunction
- Heat sensitivity
- High norepinephrine, as a side effect of antidepressants
The only cause that's "curable" is the medication side effect, and that may not be an attractive option to you if the drug is doing more good than harm. This is one of those symptoms we have to either live with or find ways to manage.
Dealing with Excessive Sweating
One of the important things is to stay hydrated - make sure you replace both the water and the electrolytes you sweat out. It can be hard for us to tell when we're dehydrated because the symptoms can be similar to some we already have. Here is some additional information about dehydration.
Some easy things to try are loose powders and antiperspirants. You may also want to carry tissues or a wash cloth with you to blot your skin. Taking cooler baths or showers, or running cooler water over your body before you get out, may also help. Your doctor may have ideas for medications to help with excessive sweating.
- Oil-absorbing face wipes can help you from having greasy-looking skin.
- Dress shields and sweat pads can help absorb sweat before it soaks through your clothing. For especially heavy sweat, a menstrual pad may work better.
For those times when you are really sweaty, you may want to keep a change of clothes in your car or at work. A hat or ponytail holder can help hide sweat-related hair disasters in a pinch.
Especially if you tend to be cold, you may frequently find yourself dressed too warmly for the environment. Dressing in layers gives you more temperature-control options.
Atarowska M, Samborski W. Annales Academiae Medicae Stetinensis. 2006;52 Suppl 2:105-10. (Abstract only; article in Polish) Difficulties with diagnosis of fibromyalgia: case report.
Collins S, van Hilten JJ, et al. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation. 2008 Jun;89(6):1114-20. Development of a symptoms questionnaire for complex regional pain syndrome and potentially related illnesses: the Trauma Related Neuronal Dysfunction Symptoms Inventory.
Demling J, Beyer S, Kornhuber J. Medical Hypotheses. 2010 Jan;74(1):155-7 To sweat or not to sweat? A hypothesis on the effects of venlafaxine and SSRIs.
Furlan R, Barbic F, et al. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology. 2009 Oct;169 Suppl 1:S17-20. Neural autonomic control in orthostatic intolerance.
Schutz B, von Engelhardt J, et al. Neuroscience. 2008 Oct 2;156(2):310-8. Sweat gland innervation is pioneered by sympathetic neurons expressing a cholinergic/noradrenergic co-phenotype in the mouse.