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Excessive Sweating
July 2001

Q. I am a 61-year-old male, somewhat overweight (6'0" - 235 lbs). For the last several months I have experienced extreme sweating from the head during my sleep. This has interrupted my sleeping pattern, and I am presently exhausted from lack of sleep. At night my pillow becomes so wet with persperation that I must turn the pillow over. I have been to the local physician and he seems to feel that this is strictly due to my weight and lack of exercise. Any possible clues you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

A. Sweating in general results from activation of the sympathetic nervous system, sometimes called our flight or fight response in reaction to something in our environment. The most common situation is which sweating is a normal response to the environment would be attempting to cool down body temperature in a hot climate. And most people have experienced the sweating that accompanies anxiety or nervousness.

It is not clear that the sweating in your situation is serving either of these physiologic purposes. Since the sweating continues, your doctor might want to order a lab test to check your metabolism, including the thyroid gland. You should also take your temperature morning and evening to determine if the sweating indicates a fever as this would indicate the need to search for an infection. Making an accurate diagnosis of the cause will determine what options are available for treatment.

HELPFUL WEBSITES:

http://www.excessivesweating.org/

http://www.healthanswers.com/library/library_fset.asp

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