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?
Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or anhidrosis (insufficient sweating) can be caused by high or low blood sugar levels (lack of sweating). Hyperhidrosis is more common in diabetics, and it may indicate that glucose control needs to be improved.
When a person with diabetes has low blood sugar, their body goes into fight-or-flight mode, which causes them to sweat. Depending on the type of injury, people with nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy may have excessive sweating, especially at night, or insufficient sweating.When a person has a systemic disease that involves a metabolic impairment, sweating disorders can happen too.
There are a few different types of sweating that diabetes mellitus can cause.
Let’s discuss them here.
The connection between diabetes and sweating
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.
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How can diabetes cause sweating?
Diabetes is a metabolic condition, which means it affects the body’s energy management. Diabetes affects a variety of hormones, which can have an impact on a range of physiological systems. Diabetes-related changes can have an impact on thermoregulation, which is the mechanism by which the body maintains a comfortable temperature in hot or cold surroundings.
Sweating is one of the ways the body regulates its temperature in hot weather. Sweat carries part of the body’s excess heat with it when it evaporates, which in turn, cools the skin.
There are two basic processes by which diabetes might cause sweating problems. Both have something to do with blood sugar, often known as blood glucose. Blood glucose levels must be constantly monitored and maintained at the proper level. Too much and you will experience high blood sugar, too little and you will struggle with low blood sugar. This balancing act occurs naturally in people who do not have diabetes. However, in those with diabetes, this process might go haywire, resulting in high or low blood sugar.
Research shows that people with type 1 diabetes sweat more in their upper bodies and less in their lower bodies, which can contribute to total anhidrosis. They may also have a reduced blood volume and a poorer blood flow. Overheating can be exacerbated by certain cardiovascular issues.
Low blood sugar levels
Low blood sugar can cause a variety of debilitating symptoms related to the fight-or-flight survival response.
When a person takes too much insulin or other medicine, or when they don’t eat enough carbohydrates, low blood sugar can follow.
Low blood sugar can cause the following symptoms:
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Hunger Sweating
Sweating is one of the signs of low blood sugar, however it rarely happens on its own. In most cases, a person will also feel the additional symptoms of low blood sugar.
When people with diabetes have high blood sugar levels, they might develop diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage. Excess sugar can cause nerve injury. Nerve injury can occur anywhere on the body, but it can cause sweat glands to cease operating properly if it occurs near them. Depending on the sort of damage, this can result in insufficient or excessive sweating.
Insufficient sweating is unpleasant since it indicates that the body’s thermoregulation system is less effective, making you feel hot. If you know you have nerve damage, it’s crucial to stay out of the sun for long periods of time.
Nerve injury can also cause excessive sweating in some people. This can result in excessive harm depending on the sort of damage.
It’s crucial to understand that diabetic neuropathy can be avoided with proper blood sugar management. Studies show that effective glycemic control can protect sweat glands specifically. One study involving diabetic rats, found that sweating deficits can be prevented by maintaining normal glucose levels.
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:
- Visual disturbances
Types of Excessive Sweating
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:
- Unusual heart rate
- Bladder control problems
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 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 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
Sweating can leave you feeling embarrassed and anxious to leave the house. If you have excessive sweating and would like to ease the symptoms, you can make some simple lifestyle changes to help.
1) Take a test
It’s recommended getting checked if you’re not sure why you are excessively sweating. One out of every ten Americans has diabetes, and one out of every four has prediabetes. Sweating isn’t always an indication that you have diabetes, but it may be a sign to look out for.
2) Diabetes treatment
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor if your perspiration is caused by diabetes. Sweating can indicate that your diabetes is not being effectively managed.
You’ll want to avoid both low and high blood sugar, so stick to your medication’s instructions, eat regularly, and keep to lower-glycemic, slow-releasing carbs. If you’re dealing with possibly recurrent hypoglycemia episodes, a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) gadget can be quite useful. Freestyle Libre and Dexcom are two popular types that can be prescribed by your doctor.
Night sweats are thought to be linked to hypoglycemia, so if you’re sweating excessively at night, it’s a good idea to review your treatment plan.
3) Dress comfortably
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.
Layers that are easy to put on and take off, such as a zippered hoodie, can also be worn.
Wearing breathable, natural textiles, such as cotton, can also help. Avoid wearing tight, synthetic clothing that restricts your skin’s ability to breathe.
It may be beneficial to change out of sweaty clothing if you become uncomfortable. When you’re at home, this is a little easier, but if you’ll be out of the house for an extended period of time, you should bring a change of clothes.
Make sure you shower daily and apply antiperspirant. You can also apply astringent products topically to the area of sweat. Start with one of the over-the-counter “clinical strength” medicines available at the pharmacy. If this doesn’t work, talk to your doctor, who might be able to suggest anything else.
5) At night, keep your room cold
When night sweats become a problem, keeping the room cold and using a fan can help. Sleeping with lighter or fewer covers can also assist if you’re overheated at night. Cotton bedding is more breathable than polyester sheets. Controlling your sleeping environment is a crucial aspect of preventing nighttime perspiration.
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
- 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
- Nervous system disorder
- 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:
- Chest pain
- A temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
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.
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.