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Excessive Sweating
November 2001

Q. Would you be able to tell me anything about Raymond's Phenomenon? I suffer excessive sweating during times when I am freezing cold (especially with my hands, feet and armpits). This name has been brought up to me and I would like some more information on the phenomenon's characteristics and if there are any medications or treatments available.

A. There is a medical condition called Raynaud's Phenomenon, but your description sounds different. Raynaud's is a sensitivity to cold exposure, but leads to a spasm of the blood vessels in the hands and feet, causing them to turn white or blue due to restriction of blood flow. This spasm can be caused by any condition that impairs circulation, certain drugs, and smoking, to name a few.

Excess sweating is referred to as hyperhidrosis. See your doctor for an exam to help evaluate the condition you describe. 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 in 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.




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