Decreased sweating

Alternative names
Sweating - absent; Anhidrosis

Abnormal lack of sweat in response to heat.

Anhidrosis sometimes goes unrecognized until a substantial amount of heat or exertion fails to cause sweating.

Overall lack of sweating can be life threatening because the body will overheat. If the lack of sweating is localized, it is usually not as dangerous.

Common Causes

  • neurologic disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome  
  • skin diseases that block sweat glands  
  • congenital disorders including as ectodermal dysplasia  
  • some drugs  
  • trauma to sweat glands  
  • burns  
  • dehydration

Home Care
If there is a danger of overheating, take a cold shower or sit in a cool bathtub and drink plenty of fluids. Remain in a cool environment. Move slowly during hot weather. Avoid heavy exercise and hot foods.

Call your health care provider if

  • there is generalized lack of sweating (home care should be used while waiting to see the doctor).  
  • there is any abnormal lack of sweating when exposed to heat or strenuous exercise.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. In emergencies (where rapid cooling measures and fluid replacement will be initiated) the patient will be stabilized first.

Medical history questions documenting absent sweating in detail may include:

  • time pattern       o When did this begin?       o Has it been present since infancy or childhood?  
  • location       o Is it only on one side of the forehead?       o Is it on the whole body?  
  • other       o What other symptoms are also present?

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • drugs administered to stimulate sweating  
  • topical substance applied to the skin  
  • the person may be placed in a sweat box for observation  
  • the person may be wrapped in an electric blanket to observe sweat patterns  
  • a skin biopsy may be performed


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by Potos A. Aagen, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.