Diabetes Complications

Diabetes and Sweating: What’s The Connection?

If you have diabetes, you may have noticed that you sweat more than the average person. 

It’s not all in your head! There are scientific reasons for why this can happen.

When most people think of type 2 diabetes, they think about high blood sugar levels and their impact on the eyes, kidneys, and feet through peripheral neuropathy and nerve damage. 

But did you know that diabetes can also affect your sweat? 

There are a few different types of sweating that diabetes mellitus can cause. 

Let’s discuss them here.

The connection between diabetes and sweating

When a person has a systemic disease that involves a metabolic impairment, sweating disorders can happen too. 

This is because when there is metabolic impairment, several symptoms can occur, including the following:

  • Autonomic failures
  • Psychopathic disorders
  • Abnormal skin innervation
  • Sweat gland dysfunction

The above disorders and dysfunctions can interact with each other in diverse ways, leading to things such as excessive sweating, for example.

Is it normal?

Homeostasis of bodily fluids is essential for health. 

The kidneys are the organ responsible for maintaining water balance throughout the body. The kidneys can compensate for daily fluctuations in water intake and fluid loss. 

These include respiration, perspiration, and bleeding. 

In diabetes, kidney function can become decreased, and regulation can eventually become subpar.

Sweating is a potential symptom of hypoglycemic episodes

Other symptoms of severe hypoglycemia to look out for include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Visual disturbances

Types of sweating diabetes can cause

Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating not caused by exercise or high temperature. 

Primary hyperhidrosis is when there is no known underlying cause for sweating. 

Secondary hyperhidrosis is also called diaphoresis. This is when excessive sweating occurs as either a symptom or a side effect of some other factor.

If you have the following symptoms in addition to excessive sweating, you could have what’s called diabetic autonomic neuropathy:

This happens when there is damage to the nerves that control blood pressure, sweating, and the bladder.

Hyperhidrosis can also happen as a result of obesity, which often comes along with diabetes. 

Excessive sweating could also be a side effect of a medication. 

Some of the medicines that can cause excessive sweating include prescription medications for diabetes, such as Metformin.

Gustatory sweating

Gustatory sweating is caused by food. It only affects the areas around the face and neck. 

Certain conditions can increase the gustatory sweating reaction. Autonomic neuropathy is one potential underlying cause. 

If you have diabetic neuropathy or diabetic nephropathy, then you are more likely to experience gustatory sweating than the general population.

The best way to know if you’re experiencing diabetic gustatory sweating is if you experience profuse head or facial sweating when you eat or drink. 

Gustatory sweating can even happen just from thinking about or smelling some food!

Night sweats

Night sweats happen when blood sugar drops during the night. This is what we call nocturnal hypoglycemia. 

Low blood sugar is something that can occur in people taking insulin or sulfonylurea diabetes medications.

If your blood glucose drops too low, this causes excess production of adrenaline. And adrenaline leads to sweating. 

If the night sweats stop, this is a sign that low blood sugar levels have gone back to normal.

But diabetes isn’t the only potential cause of night sweats. They’re also common in menopause, known as hot flashes. 

They can even happen if you exercise too close to bedtime or if you’ve consumed alcohol in the evening. 

Night sweats can also happen if you take certain types of insulin medication in the evening.

If your night sweats are happening due to low blood glucose levels, then obtaining glycemic control is the best way to manage this. 

You may need to eat a snack before bed. You should also make sure your exercise is earlier in the day and not too close to bedtime.

Your doctor can advise you on how to make changes to your diet, exercise routine, and medications to manage your night sweats.

How to ease the symptoms

If you have excessive sweating and would like to ease the symptoms, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to help.

Wear clothing and socks that are made of natural materials. 

Make sure you shower daily and apply antiperspirant. You can also apply astringent products topically to the area of sweat. 

Change your clothes, socks, and shoes often, making sure you keep your feet dry. 

Choose clothes that are appropriate to your exercise/activity level. If you have sweating related to stress, then incorporate some relaxation techniques into your routine.

If you are sweating because of low blood sugar, taking a glucose tablet can also be helpful.

Treatment

Treatment will depend upon the type of sweating that you are experiencing. Your doctor will know which treatment is best for you. 

Treatment often requires medication. 

Do keep in mind that medications often come with side effects. 

The following types of medications are used in the treatment of excessive sweating:

  • Botox injections
  • Antidepressants
  • Nerve blocking medications
  • Prescription antiperspirant or cream

Some procedures can help with excessive sweating. 

If the problem is exclusively with your armpits, then you can have the sweat glands removed. 

There is also a procedure called iontophoresis. This is treatment using an electrical current. 

And, if no other treatment has helped, then there is a nerve surgery that can be done. 

However, this is only used as a last resort.

When to see a doctor

Diabetic patients should always see a doctor if they have profuse sweating since it could be the sign of a more severe condition, such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Cancer
  • Nervous system disorder
  • Infection
  • Thyroid dysfunction

But it is most important that you see your doctor right away if you have sweating along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Chills
  • Chest pain
  • A temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea

If you want to determine the underlying cause of your excessive sweating, then you may want to see your doctor. 

You may also want to see your doctor if the sweating is causing any of the following for you:

  • Emotional or social distress
  • Interrupting your activities of daily living
  • If the sweating comes on suddenly
  • If you have night sweats for no known reason

Your doctor will make a diagnosis based upon their intake and a physical exam. 

Sometimes, your doctor might apply substances to the skin to create small amounts of sweat. They may also run other tests to rule out other, more serious conditions.

Conclusion

There is undoubtedly a connection between diabetes and sweating. And although common, it’s not necessarily normal. 

You must address this problem with your primary health care provider.

If you have diabetes and experience hyperhidrosis, gustatory hyperhidrosis, or night sweats, then see your doctor. They will be able to diagnose the root cause of the problem. 

They will also look into some of the more serious and concerning reasons for sweating to rule them out. Then, they can then recommend treatment, whether it be medication or a procedure. 

You can ease your symptoms by making some simple lifestyle changes.

There is no need to go through life with excessive sweating and seeing it as a mystery. 

Hypoglycemia unawareness can be dangerous. Book an appointment with your doctor to discuss it with them today.

Next Up

diabetes complications

Find out How To Manage and Prevent Diabetes Complications.

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