Excessive sweating

Excessive sweating, which is also called hyperhidrosis, can affect your quality of life and sometimes cause skin conditions.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021


Sweat, or perspiration, is your body’s way of cooling down. Excessive sweating is a common complaint which often starts when you’re a child or teenager. Sometimes symptoms improve with age or it can usually be successfully treated.

Causes of excessive sweating

Your armpits, feet, hands, face, groin or scalp are most likely to be affected by excessive sweating. Excess sweat in these areas of your body most often happens for no particular reason.

However, it can be triggered by certain foods, drinks and stressful situations.

Sometimes, frequent and excessive sweating all over your body can be a symptom of:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • A side effect of certain medications, including some anti-depressants
  • Substance or alcohol abuse or withdrawal

Less commonly it can be caused by:

  • An underlying medical condition, such as cardiovascular, spinal and respiratory problems and some cancers
  • A serious illness, such as TB or malaria

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Getting a diagnosis for excessive sweating

If you’ve been sweating excessively and frequently at least once a week for six months or more, see your GP. You should also see your GP if:

  • Excessive sweating is making normal life difficult
  • Your family has a history of excessive sweating
  • You’re taking medication that can cause excessive sweating
  • You’re having regular night sweats

Your GP will discuss your sweating and suggest ways to control excessive sweat. They’ll also ask about your general health and any family history of excessive sweating. They may arrange tests to check for any underlying reasons for your sweating and, if required, will arrange appropriate treatment.

Your GP may refer you to a consultant dermatologist, a specialist in skin conditions, for further assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments for excessive sweating

There are several ways you can help reduce or prevent excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). Try:

  • Avoiding tight clothes and man-made fabrics – choose loose fitting outfits made from natural materials such as cotton and silk
  • Dusting sweaty feet with foot powders, wearing moisture-absorbing socks and, rather than trainers or boots, choosing leather shoes
  • Avoiding triggers for your sweat – these could be alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate or simply the anxiety of being in a large group of people
  • Using an anti-perspirant containing aluminium chloride – apply to the affected areas at night and wash off in the morning

If these suggestions don’t reduce your excessive sweating, your GP or consultant may recommend:

  • Anti-perspiration medication
  • Botox® injections to the armpits
  • Iontophoresis – a series of treatments where a weak electric current is passed through the affected area
  • Surgery to remove small sections of your sweat glands