Night sweats are also called sleep hyperhidrosis, and it’s when you sweat excessively during sleep. Some people develop this condition after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
If this has happened to you, it may have left you wondering whether your diabetes diagnosis is related. This article will examine how type 2 diabetes and sleep hyperhidrosis are linked and explain how doctors diagnose and treat excessive sweating at night.
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Hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating. Some people experience this condition during daytime and nighttime hours. For some, it primarily appears at one time or the other. According to one study,¹ 41% of people experienced hyperhidrosis in the past month, with 23% of those experiencing night sweats.
Anyone who's been outside on a hot summer day or worked out too hard at the gym knows it isn't uncommon to sweat profusely. Hyperhidrosis isn't about sweating when you give your body a reason to. The colloquial name of excessive sweating describes the condition well; it's about sweating more than your body should be in the conditions it's under.
Something may be wrong if you're relaxing in a relatively cool room and sweat is pouring off you. With night sweats, this type of sweating primarily occurs while you're sleeping. Sweating is natural if the A/C goes out or your blanket is too thick for the weather. Night sweats are when you sweat overnight for no real reason.
Whether limited to nighttime or not, hyperhidrosis does not pose a life-threatening risk. However, several quality-of-life problems can arise if the condition becomes bad enough.
According to a study,² over half of the people with hyperhidrosis have experienced adverse effects on their social lives and mental well-being. This mainly comes from the self-consciousness of being sweaty all the time and the body odor that arises. You may alleviate some of these social conditions if you're only sweating at night, but it may still prevent you from sleeping or cause friction with anyone who shares a bed with you.
There are two classifications of hyperhidrosis: Primary and secondary. The distinction is important because the treatment and management choices may differ significantly depending on the type.
If you have primary hyperhidrosis, you develop the condition early in life. The causes of primary hyperhidrosis aren't well understood.
This type occurs due to medication or a condition, such as diabetes. Several conditions can cause hyperhidrosis.
Yes. Diabetic neuropathy³ is a common complication of type 2 diabetes. Neuropathy simply means that nerves are damaged. Your nerves tell your body when it needs to sweat more, which is good because it keeps you cool.
However, these nerves are among those that type 2 diabetes can damage. When these nerves are damaged, they don't send the signals they should be sending. The result of this type of neuropathy is that you may find yourself sweating more often or less often than usual.
Diabetes isn't the only cause of hyperhidrosis. Some other causes of secondary hyperhidrosis are:
Some menopausal women develop hyperhidrosis around their face and scalp. The hot flashes associated⁴ with menopause can also cause sweating for several years during the transition.
Several drugs can cause hyperhidrosis. These include recreational, prescription, or other-the-counter drugs, including antidepressants, painkillers, and steroids.
Some infections, such as tuberculosis or HIV, have hyperhidrosis as a symptom. In the case of infection, a fever often accompanies hyperhidrosis.
One of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is reduced tolerance to heat. Because of this, people with the condition may sweat excessively even when it isn't hot.
People with certain blood cancers, such as lymphoma or leukemia, are likely to experience hyperhidrosis and weight loss as symptoms of the condition.
When you tell your doctor about your excessive sweating, they'll ask you questions to narrow down the cause. Afterward, they may perform tests to confirm their suspicions. The exact tests will depend on the underlying cause.
There are several treatments available for hyperhidrosis. If you have the secondary form of the condition, your doctor will first treat whatever the underlying cause is to remove the trigger. There are medications you can take to alleviate the condition.
These come in a variety of different forms. In extreme cases, there are also invasive options.
The first line of defense against night sweats is topical medicines. Some of these, such as aluminum chloride hexahydrate, are available as ingredients in over-the-counter antiperspirants. Stronger options, such as glycopyrronium tosylate,⁵ are available via prescription if over-the-counter options don’t remedy the situation.
Oral medications can also reduce sweating if topical treatments don't work or if you find them too irritating on your skin. These drugs, called anticholinergics, block the action of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Oxybutynin and glycopyrrolate are common options.
A botulinum toxin⁶ injection is another option if medication doesn't work. While the name may sound scary, the effects of this injection are temporary. Similar to anticholinergics, botulinum toxin prevents the action of neurotransmitters. In this case, it damages them. Because the effects are temporary, you will need repeated shots, making this one of the more expensive options. In most cases, treatment lasts 6 to 9 months.
Especially for sweating from the armpits, emerging treatments include microwave technology, where the sweat cells are destroyed by applying heat from microwaves from a probe. There’s also fractionated microneedle radiofrequency, where microneedles are placed slightly under the skin, and radiofrequency energy destroys sweat cells.
Surgery is the most invasive option, and it’s a last resort. There are different surgeries available for hyperhidrosis. The most common and successful involves removing the ganglia that cause sweat secretion. If your condition gets bad enough to warrant surgery, your doctor will explain the risks and potential complications.
Some people experience severe social and mental effects because of hyperhidrosis. Therapy won't stop the sweating but can help people with the condition better handle its effects.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has a helpful guide⁷ for minimizing the impact of hyperhidrosis. They recommend ensuring that you're using antiperspirant. Many people wrongly assume that deodorants and antiperspirants are the same.
Pay close attention to the labels: Aluminum chloride hexahydrate earlier is a good ingredient to look for.
Another helpful tip from the AAD is to keep a sweat journal. Anytime you find yourself excessively sweating, write down what you were doing before it happened. If you do this long enough, you may be able to notice patterns and find triggers to avoid.
A few nights of unexplained night sweats are probably nothing to worry about. If your condition persists, a doctor will be able to help you track down the cause of your sweating. This could mean that you have night sweats for several days in a row or that you have them every so often, but for an extended period.
If your night sweats accompany other health changes, a visit to your doctor becomes more important. These combined symptoms could be a sign of a larger problem. Even if it doesn't occur frequently, it may still interfere with your ability to sleep.
If this is the case, your doctor may be able to help you reduce the symptoms and enjoy fewer interruptions at bedtime.
Getting a type 2 diabetes diagnosis brings many diet and lifestyle changes. In addition, there are secondary conditions, such as night sweats, that you may begin experiencing. These can make it even more challenging to adapt to the condition.
Whenever you experience a new symptom, let your diabetic care team know. This ensures that you’re properly caring for your diabetes and that no other complications or conditions need addressing.
Diabetic neuropathy: A position statement by the American diabetes association | American Diabetes Association
Hot flashes: What can I do? | National Institute of Health
Glycopyrronium topical | MedlinePlus
Botulinum toxin | StatPearls
Hyperhidrosis: Tips for managing | American Academy of Dermatology