In other words, your body starts sweating without any explicable reason (like feelings of anxiety, hot temperatures, or exercise). This kind of hyperhidrosis can occur at any given time or during any season of the year, even if the person is not physically warm or is completely at rest. “Primary hyperhidrosis is most commonly seen in the underarms, palms, and soles of the feet,” says Dr. Bhanusali.
Other less-common areas where primary hyperhidrosis’s excessive sweating can pop up include the head, back, and even the face. So basically, it can pretty much happen anywhere on your body.
Secondary hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, is excessive sweating that’s caused by an external factor such as medication or illness, like a tumor, diabetes, or thyroid issues.
Of these two types, there are also different degrees of hyperhidrosis that experts differentiate between: mild, moderate, and severe. “If you sweat through a shirt when you are at rest in normal temperature, I would say that is moderate hyperhidrosis,” Dr. Talakoub says. “If you have sweat dripping down your hands and through your socks [when you’re] at rest with no [other] triggers, then that is severe hyperhidrosis.”
What’s the difference between normal vs. excessive sweating?
Of course, the next question then becomes: What’s the threshold between normal and worrisome sweat levels? Are there any other symptoms to look out for that don’t involve perspiration?
“Excessive sweating, or how someone perceives it, is very personal in that what might be excessive to you is normal or not troubling to somebody else,” explains Lyall Gorenstein, MD, surgical director at Columbia University Hyperhidrosis Center.
Because sweat is not really a quantifiable thing, like blood pressure, it’s really complicated to measure someone’s sweat levels throughout any given day. With enough time and “sophisticated equipment” called an evaporimeter — which measures the rate of water evaporation — it is doable, but even so, “there’s a big variability in how much people sweat under similar situations,” Dr. Gorenstein says. “So, it’s hard to define exactly what hyperhidrosis is, but it could be something along the lines of increased amounts of sweating, which causes social or personal embarrassment, withdrawal, and/or avoidance behavior.”
That is to say, hyperhidrosis is a relative disorder and most people diagnose it themselves. For someone whose job depends on their physical appearance, like an actor or a performer, sweating too much may be a bigger deal than for someone who works from home. But it’s also a matter of personal comfort levels.
How is hyperhidrosis treated?
Good news: There are many hyperhidrosis treatment options, including topical creams, injections, and oral medications. What your physician prescribes will likely depend on the area where you’re experiencing hyperhidrosis as well as the severity.