Diabetes and excessive sweating
Although excessive sweating can have many different causes, some are related to diabetes.
The three types of problem sweating are:
- Hyperhidrosis. This type of sweating is not necessarily caused by temperature or exercise.
- Gustatory sweating. This type is caused by food and is limited to face and neck areas.
- Night sweats. These are caused by low blood glucose during the night.
Treatment depends on the type of sweating you have. Your doctor can recommend the best treatment to help relieve or stop your excessive sweating.
Also, since profuse sweating can be a sign of other more serious conditions, you should always see a doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Hyperhidrosis is a term for excessive sweating that isn’t always from exercising or warm temperature. Technically, primary hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that has no known underlying cause.
Secondary hyperhidrosis, also called diaphoresis, is the term for excessive sweating that’s a symptom or side effect of something else.
If you have diabetes and, along with sweating, you have bladder control problems or an unusual heart rate, it could indicate autonomic neuropathy. This is caused by damage to the nerves that control functions like the bladder, blood pressure, and sweating.
Excessive sweating can also occur with obesity, which often accompanies diabetes. It can also be a side effect of a variety of medications, including some prescribed for diabetes.
Gustatory sweating is sweating in response to food or eating. While it’s common to break a sweat while eating spicy food, certain conditions increase this reaction. Autonomic neuropathy can be the underlying cause.
People with diabetic autonomic neuropathy or diabetic nephropathy are more likely to experience gustatory sweating than those without these conditions. If you sweat profusely in your head and neck region when you eat or drink, you’re experiencing gustatory sweating. It can also occur just by thinking about or smelling food.
Night sweats are often caused by low blood glucose, which can occur in people taking insulin or diabetes medications known as sulfonylureas. When your blood glucose drops too low, you produce excess adrenaline, which causes sweating.
Once your blood glucose returns to normal, the sweating should stop. Night sweats can have causes unrelated to diabetes, too, such as menopause.
Many factors can contribute to night sweats. These include:
- exercising too close to bedtime
- certain types of insulin taken in the evening
- drinking alcohol in the evening
Blood glucose control is the best way to manage night sweats caused by low blood glucose. Sometimes, simply adjusting your exercise time or eating a snack before bed can help. Your doctor can help you alter your diet, exercise, or medications to reduce or eliminate night sweats.
Treating excessive sweating usually requires medications. These may come with side effects and varying levels of effectiveness. Most are topical or pills, but Botox (botulinum toxin injection) is often used.
- nerve blocking medication
- prescription antiperspirant or creams
- Botox injections
- sweat gland removal, for issues in armpits only
- iontophoresis, treatment with an electrical current
- nerve surgery, only if other treatment has not helped
- wear clothing (including socks) made of natural materials
- bathe daily and use antiperspirant
- apply an astringent to the area
- change socks often and keep your feet dry
- choose clothes that match your activity
- try relaxation techniques to reduce stress-related sweating
You should talk to your doctor if:
- excessive sweating is interrupting your daily routine
- sweating is causing you emotional or social distress
- you suddenly begin to sweat more than usual
- you experience night sweats for no obvious reason
Excessive sweating can be a sign of more serious issues, such as:
- heart attack
- some cancers
- nervous system disorder
- thyroid disorder
You should see your doctor immediately if you experience the following symptoms along with excessive sweating. These may be signs of something more serious:
- temperature of 104°F or higher
- chest pain
- unintentional weight loss
Your doctor may make a diagnosis based on your history and a physical exam. Diagnosing may also require applying substances to the skin to make small amounts of sweat appear, or tests to detect other disorders.
While excessive sweating can occur in anyone, some causes are directly related to diabetes. It’s important to see a doctor and find the underlying cause. People who sweat profusely are more prone to skin infections and can experience emotional and social distress from embarrassment.
Excessive sweating also can be a sign of a more serious condition. If you’re having problems with abnormal sweating, talk to your doctor. Several medications, and combination treatments, are available and can be effective in getting excessive sweating under control.
It might also be helpful to talk to others about their own experiences with type 2 diabetes. Our free app, T2D Healthline, connects you with real people living with type 2 diabetes. Ask symptom-related questions and seek advice from others who get it. Download the app for iPhone or Android.