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Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself off. Some people aren’t able to sweat typically because their sweat glands are no longer functioning properly. This condition is known as hypohidrosis, or anhidrosis. It can affect your entire body, a single area, or scattered areas.
The inability to sweat can cause overheating. This can lead to heat stroke, which is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Hypohidrosis can be difficult to diagnose. This means that mild hypohidrosis often goes unnoticed.
The condition has many causes. It can be inherited at birth or develop later in life.
As you age, it’s normal for your ability to sweat to diminish. Conditions that damage your autonomic nerves, such as diabetes, also make problems with your sweat glands more likely.
Any condition that causes nerve damage can disrupt the functioning of your sweat glands. This includes:
Skin damage from severe burns can permanently damage your sweat glands. Other possible sources of damage include:
Skin disorders that inflame the skin can also affect your sweat glands. These include:
Taking certain medications, particularly those known as anticholinergics, can result in reduced sweating. These medications have side effects that include a sore throat, dry mouth, and reduction in perspiration.
Some people may inherit a damaged gene that causes their sweat glands to malfunction. An inherited condition called hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia causes people to be born with either very few or no sweat glands.
The symptoms of hypohidrosis include:
Mild hypohidrosis may go unnoticed unless you engage in vigorous exercise and become overheated because you’re not sweating or are sweating very little.
Your doctor will need to take a thorough medical history to diagnose this condition. You should share all symptoms that you’ve experienced with your doctor. This includes breaking out in a red rash or skin flushing when you should be sweating. It’s important to tell them if you sweat in some parts of your body but not in others.
Your doctor may use any of the following tests to confirm a diagnosis of hypohidrosis:
Hypohidrosis that affects only a small part of your body usually won’t cause problems and may not require treatment. If an underlying medical condition is causing hypohidrosis, your doctor will treat that condition. This may help reduce your symptoms.
If medications are causing your hypohidrosis, your doctor may recommend trying another medication or reducing your dosage. While this isn’t always possible, adjusting medications may help to improve sweating.
It may not be possible to prevent hypohidrosis, but you can take steps to avoid serious illnesses related to overheating. Wear loose, light-colored clothing, and don’t overdress when it’s hot. Stay inside if possible, and take care not to overexert yourself in the heat.
You can also take steps to cool your body off and avoid overheating. This includes applying water or cool cloths to your skin to make you feel like you’re sweating. When the water evaporates, you’ll feel cooler.
If it’s left untreated, hypohidrosis can cause your body to overheat. Overheating requires quick treatment to prevent it from worsening into heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. You should call 911 or visit an emergency room if you’re having a heat stroke.
Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN
Medically reviewed on: Jul 10, 2017: Daniel Murrell, MD
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