We’ve all soaked through a shirt or two during the dog days of summer, but how do you know that your level of sweating is just regulation perspiration and not a medical-grade issue? Here, general internal medicine specialist Dr. Seema Marwaha answers some of the questions about sweat that you’d rather not have to ask.
Why do we sweat?
While it might feel (and smell) a little gross sometimes, sweating is one of the ways your body maintains its proper temperature. But not everyone perspires equally.
Sometimes my sweat stinks. But other times, it’s fine. What’s up with that?
Your body produces sweat in a few different ways: First, there’s the odourless type that pours off of you during a workout, or when you stand in the hot sun. It’s like your body’s own internal air conditioning system. Think about how chilly your skin is when you’re still wet from the shower. As the water dries and evaporates, it cools down your body — sweat works the same way.
The armpit and genital areas have slightly different sweat glands. The sweat produced here is thicker, and when it comes into contact with nearby bacteria, you get a distinct body odour.
Why do some people sweat more than others
Some studies have found women sweat less than men, despite having more sweat glands. Your muscle mass also makes a difference — more muscle equals a higher metabolic rate, which equals a whole lot more sweat. All these factors explain why some people look totally drenched after a spin on the elliptical, while other people are dry. Your body can also produce sweat as a response to anxiety or stress.
Compared to my friends, I feel like I’m definitely the sweatiest. How much sweat is too much sweat?
People who sweat excessively have a condition called hyperhidrosis, which means they produce more than their body requires for cooling, and out of proportion with the activity they’re doing. For example, they might sweat profusely while sitting calmly at their desk, or sweat might literally drip from their palms for no reason. Between two and three per cent of people have hyperhidrosis, and it can be treated with botox or prescription-grade antiperspirants.
In some cases, sweating can be caused by another underlying medical condition, like an infection, menopause, thyroid issue or even cancer. If the sweating is new, excessive, covers your entire body or happens during the night, talk to your doctor. If it happens under normal conditions, you could just be sweaty by nature.