Alternative names
Perspiration - excessive; Sweating - excessive; Increased sweating

Diaphoresis is a medical term for profuse sweating. It can be normal (physiologic) - brought on by physical activity, emotional response, or high environmental temperature - or a symptom of an underlying disease (pathologic).


In most cases, sweating is perfectly natural, especially asa a result of exercise or hot tempereatures, or if something has happened to cause an emotional response (anger, embarrassment, nervousness, fear, or anxiety).

If sweating is accompanied by fever, weight loss, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or palpitations, other physical causes should be considered.

Common Causes

  • Environmental temperatures  
  • Fever (often triggers sweating to cool off the body)  
  • Menopause  
  • Overactive thyroid gland (the hands shake, the hair thins, the skin is smooth, and the pulse is fast)  
  • Low blood sugar in a diabetic receiving insulin or oral medication  
  • Underlying infection or malignancy (sweating at night without an obvious cause)  
  • Emotional or psychological stimulation (being in or thinking about difficult situations)  
  • Exercise  
  • Spicy foods (known as “gustatory sweating”)  
  • Drugs - including antipyretics, some antipsychotics, sympathomimetics, caffeine, morphine, alcohol and thyroid hormone  
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or narcotic analgesics

Home Care
After an episode of unusual sweating, the face and body should be sponged, wet clothes or bed sheets changed. Lost body fluids should be replaced by drinking plenty of water.

Room temperature should be kept moderate to prevent additional sweating.

For sweating due to menopause, ask your health care provider if estrogen replacement therapy is a viable option.

Call your health care provider if

  • There is prolonged, excessive, and unexplained sweating.  
  • Sweating is accompanied or followed by chest pain or pressure.  
  • Sweating is accompanied by weight loss or occurs primarily at night during sleep.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting excessive sweating in detail may include:

  • Location       o Is it on face or palms?       o Is it all over the body?  
  • Time pattern       o Does it occur at night?       o Did it begin suddenly?       o How long have you had it?  
  • Other       o Does it occur in response to reminders of a traumatic event?       o What other symptoms are present?       o Are hands cold and clammy?       o Is there a fever?

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • Blood tests depending on the suspected cause  
  • X-rays or other imaging depending on the suspected cause

Fluids and electrolytes will be replaced as necessary.

If identified, an underlying cause should be treated.

After seeing your health care provider:
If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to excessive sweating, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, 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.