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What causes night sweats? 24 possible conditions

What Are Night Sweats?

Excessive perspiration at night, or night sweats, is an uncomfortable part of life for many people. Night sweats can soak a pillow or require that a sleeper change nightclothes or bedding. 

What Causes Night Sweats?

Many women experience night sweats, also known as hot flashes, during menopause. As a woman's estrogen level decreases, night sweats may increase.

Night sweats are usually attributed to treatable conditions, such as infections, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and hypoglycemia. They can also be a symptom of serious illnesses such as tuberculosis, lymphoma, other cancers, or HIV and AIDS.

Night sweats can be a side effect of certain medications. These include antidepressants, hormone treatments, and hypoglycemic agents (Mayo Clinic, 2013). Abusing substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs can also cause night sweats.  

When to Seek Medical Help

Night sweats are usually not a cause for concern. Seek medical advice if night sweats occur repeatedly and disturb sleep, or if they are accompanied by other symptoms. When night sweats are accompanied by unexplained weight loss and a high fever, that may indicate be a medical emergency.

For people with lymphoma, night sweats can be a sign that the disease is progressing. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Persistent night sweats may be an indicator of the onset of HIV or a signal that HIV has progressed to AIDS.

How Are Night Sweats Treated?

Medical treatments for night sweats will address the underlying condition. Night sweats are sometimes a treatable side effect of an underlying condition, such as menopause or anxiety. In each instance, the treatment varies.

In menopausal women, hormone therapy may reduce the occurrence of hot flashes. Although anti-depressants can actually cause night sweats, in menopausal women they can be used as a treatment for hot flashes. Other medications include gabapentin and clonidine.

Home Care

For people experiencing night sweats, removing blankets (or clothing) or opening a window may help. When there is hot weather, it can help to use air conditioning or find a cooler place to sleep.

How Are Night Sweats Prevented?

Night sweats that are not caused by illness can often be prevented. Caffeine and alcohol can cause night sweats and should be limited if night sweats are an issue. Smoking cigarettes can also trigger night sweats.

Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature.  Avoid crowded rooms or getting too close to a sleeping partner. Don't exercise, eat spicy foods, or consume warm drinks before bedtime.

Relax before going to bed. Relaxing activities, like yoga or some other favorite hobby, can help with night sweats.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is bacteria that that attack your lungs. It is a potentially deadly disease, but it is curable if you get medical help right away and follow your doctor's instructions. The bacterium (germ...

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs. A severe and long-lasting cough, fever, and night sweats could indicate an active TB infection.

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Acute Stress Disorder

In the weeks after a traumatic event, you may develop an anxiety disorder called acute stress disorder (ASD). ASD typically occurs within one month of a traumatic event. It lasts at least two days and up to one month...

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Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. Excessive sweating at night, fatigue, weight loss, bone pain, and easy bleeding or bruising are signs of this disease.

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Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a lymphatic system cancer. Symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes, chest pain, fatigue, and fever.

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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition that affects the chambers of your heart. CHF refers to fluid buildup around your heart.

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Hodgkin's Disease

Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma, a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. It can occur at any age, but is most prevalent between the ages of 15 and 40 and after the age of 55.

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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in childhood, although it can also occur in adults. ALL is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells in a part of the body begi...

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Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer that occurs in the blood and the marrow of the bones. Marrow is sponge-like material inside the bones that produces blood cells. AML specifically affects the white blood cells o...

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Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the blood or blood-forming tissues. There are many different types of leukemia, and treatment is different for each one. Chronic leukemias are slower growing than acut...

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and blood-forming tissues. There are many types of leukemia, each affecting different kinds of blood cells. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, is a cancer of th...

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An empyema is a condition in which pus collects in the pleural space, which is the area between your lungs and the inner surface of your chest wall.

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Hairy Cell Leukemia

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a rare type of blood and bone marrow cancer that affects the B-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells that make antibodies that fight infections). If you have HCL, your body produces ...

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Infective Endocarditis

Infective endocarditis is an infection of the heart, normally caused by bacteria in the blood stream. It is a serious medical condition. If left untreated, the infection can damage your heart and may even cause death.

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Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis, or "mono," is a group of symptoms caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. One potential symptom is a pink rash that looks like the measles.

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Pulmonary Actinomycosis

Pulmonary actinomycosis is a rare bacterial lung infection. It is also known as thoracic actinomycosis. It is not contagious. This condition mainly affects people between 30 and 60 years old. It occurs more often in me...

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Learn about sarcoidosis and its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and potential complications.

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Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, is a fungal infection that starts in the lungs and can potentially spread to the rest of the body. Fever, chills and sweating are common.

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Endocarditis is inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. Possible symptoms of this condition include pale skin, chills, and night sweats.

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Colitis is inflammation of the colon, often causing discomfort and pain in the abdomen, as well as other gastrointestinal symptoms. Colitis has many possible causes, which determine the type.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.