What causes night sweats? 17 possible conditions

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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.


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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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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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition that affects the four chambers of the heart. Early symptoms include fatigue and weight gain. Irregular heart beat and wheezing indicate a worsening.

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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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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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Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that causes granulomas, which are clumps of immune cells, to form in different organs. A skin rash is one symptom of sarcoidosis of the skin.

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Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

Coccidioidomycosis-also called valley fever-is a fungal infection that starts in the lungs, and in rare cases spreads to the rest of the body. According to the California Department of Health, approximately 150,00...

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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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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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Hodgkin's Disease

Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma. Lymphoma is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps the immune system get rid of waste and fight infections. There are two main types o...

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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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Empyema is a collection of pus (dead cells and infected fluid) inside a body cavity. Usually, this term refers to pus inside your pleural cavity, or "pleural space." The pleural cavity is the thin space between th...

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Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. There are several types of blood cells, including red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets. Generally, leukemia refers to cancers of the WBCs. Two types o...

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Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is a lymphatic system cancer. Tumors develop from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. NHL is more common than Hodgkin's lymphoma. Many types of cancers can spread to the lymph nodes...

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Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease. It is spread by the bite of an insect called a sandfly. Leishmaniasis is sometimes called kala-azar. There are two main forms of the disease. Each is associated with differen...

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Burkitt's Lymphoma

Burkitt's lymphoma is a relatively rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps your body to fight infections...

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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.
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