Diaphoresis: Causes And Treatments

Do you ever find yourself in a full-body sweat even when it's not hot out and you're not doing strenuous work or exercise? You also might be unable to stop sweating when trying to cool yourself off. If this sounds like you, you may be experiencing diaphoresis.

What is diaphoresis?

Diaphoresis is the symptom of excessive sweating beyond average perspiration. It can happen at any time but more often occurs with high temperatures or intense physical activity. While diaphoresis alone isn't life-threatening, it is often a sign of other underlying medical conditions that could be potentially dangerous without treatment.

With diaphoresis, your sweat glands overreact to certain conditions by producing more sweat than usual. You should see a doctor if you sweat excessively even when you are not active, exercising, or experiencing a change in temperature.

Causes of diaphoresis

Diaphoresis can result from a range of conditions. As such, your doctor must first assess any other symptoms and diagnose the underlying cause to treat diaphoresis effectively. 

This section highlights some of the more common causes of diaphoresis in more detail.


Menopause is the stage in a woman's life when menstruation stops, with the transition typically starting between ages 45 and 55.¹ Among other symptoms occurring during this period, diaphoresis typically shows up in the form of hot flashes and night sweats. 

Hot flashes are a sudden feeling of heat accompanied by intense sweating. Night sweats are simply hot flashes that occur at night, usually awakening the person from sleep. About 85% of women experience hot flashes and night sweats at some point during their menopausal years.²


Pregnancy can also be a sweaty affair that results in hot flashes while awake or night sweats during sleep.³ Most women sweat more during pregnancy compared to other times in their lives, and this can be attributed to the following:

  • Weight gain

  • Increased metabolism

  • Hormone fluctuations

These, along with the numerous circulatory changes taking place in a normal pregnancy, can cause the body to sweat more and shouldn't be a cause for alarm. However, you should see a doctor if you experience excessive sweating coupled with chills, fever, and vomiting. These could be symptoms of another condition, such as an infection.


Excessive sweating is an early warning sign that someone with diabetes has hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as anxiety, dizziness, blurry vision, tremors and shakiness, slurred speech, and extreme fatigue. Untreated, low blood sugar can be life-threatening, so immediate treatment should occur to restore healthy levels.


If the sweating is restricted to specific body parts, such as your hands or feet, you may be showing signs of a condition known as primary hyperhidrosis. 

An estimated 15.3 million Americans have hyperhidrosis, approximately 4.8% of the population.⁴ About 70% of this number report severe excessive sweating in at least one area of their body. This condition is not dangerous or life-threatening but can definitely impact your quality of life.


When a person with substance or alcohol use disorder stops using drugs or drinking alcohol, they often go through a phase of physiologic withdrawal. This experience can be very unpleasant and is often characterized by profuse sweating. Other withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Tremors

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation

  • Seizures

  • A racing heart

If you or your loved one is going through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and sometimes even life-threatening. A medical professional can help monitor the effects of withdrawal and provide appropriate treatment when necessary.


Certain cancers may cause diaphoresis, including bone cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and carcinoid tumors. Other conditions that occur while a patient has cancer, like infections or hormonal changes, can induce increased perspiration. Additionally, some cancer treatments and medications may cause excessive sweating.


Diaphoresis can also be a potential side effect of some medications designed to improve your health. A number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs have been known to make their users sweat profusely, including certain:

  • Antidepressants

  • Antibiotics

  • Pain relief drugs

  • Drugs used in chemotherapy

  • Antiviral medications

  • Hormonal medications like insulin and levothyroxine

While regular sweating due to a particular medication may not be a cause for concern, it is always important to notify your doctor if your medication is causing excessive sweating. They may recommend changing your prescription.

When to see a doctor

As mentioned, sweating heavily shouldn't be a cause for alarm, especially on a hot sunny day or after extreme physical activities. Some people sweat more than others, but a certain amount of perspiration is expected in those situations. Also, your gender and ethnicity may significantly affect how much sweat you produce.

However, certain circumstances may call for medical intervention, especially if sweating is so profuse that it affects your everyday life. In terms of mental health, excessive sweating can lead to anxiety and embarrassment and affect how you socialize with others.⁵

Diaphoresis may be accompanied by a number of other symptoms. These include:

  • Pale skin

  • Difficulty breathing or rapid respirations

  • Seizures

  • Cold, clammy skin

  • Dizziness

  • Chest pain

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Heart palpitations

These symptoms may indicate other underlying health conditions that need immediate medical attention. So be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you start experiencing any of the symptoms above.


The best way to treat diaphoresis is to determine the disease or disorder that's triggering your excessive sweating in the first place. Your doctor can develop a plan to help control excessive sweating while diagnosing and treating the underlying condition. 

Some medications and treatment programs include:

Clinical strength antiperspirants

Some prescription antiperspirants are effective noninvasive therapeutic options for diaphoresis. Clinical strength antiperspirants block sweat glands using aluminum chloride compounds. This topical treatment can help reduce excessive sweating in particular locations but is mainly designed to be used in the underarm area.


Certain oral medications can help reduce excessive sweating and successfully treat the condition. 

One type is the anticholinergics that block certain neurotransmitters in the body and are prescribed to help control profuse sweating. Oxybutynin and glycopyrrolate are often used for this purpose. However, they must be prescribed off-label, meaning they are approved by the FDA for a different medical indication but are also used and known to be effective for other conditions.

Beta-blockers such as propranolol are another category of medications that can be used to help with diaphoresis. They block the effects of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate and sweating, and work best when used on an as-needed basis.


An injection of botulinum toxin in the affected areas can help block the nerve signals that activate your sweat glands, thereby eliminating sweating in those areas.⁶ New botox treatment modalities are being studied that would improve the delivery and safety of the drug. However, this therapeutic option only provides short-term relief and can be very costly.

Talking with your doctor is one of the most effective ways of finding the best medication and other treatments to make diaphoresis symptoms more manageable.

The lowdown

Diaphoresis is the symptom of excessive sweating, which may be linked to some underlying medical conditions. Seeking medical advice, taking the prescribed medication, eating right, exercising, and managing your blood sugars can help to control diaphoresis in many cases.

While occasional diaphoresis may not be a concern for many people, if it has a pathologic cause and affects your quality of life, it should be addressed medically. In many cases, treating its underlying causes can help clear up the condition. The presence of other red flag symptoms may also signal more serious underlying health issues, making it even more important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and more effective treatment.

  1. What is menopause? | NIH: National Institute of Aging

  2. Complementary and alternative medicine for menopause (2019)

  3. Prospective evaluation of hot flashes during pregnancy and postpartum (2013)

  4. Hyperhidrosis: an update on prevalence and severity in the United States (2016)

  5. Research suggests connection between excessive sweating and mental health conditions | American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD)

  6. Treatment of hyperhidrosis with botulinum toxin (2012)

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