Sweating at night is not uncommon and not necessarily a cause for alarm. Even drenching night sweats, or sweating to the point that changing clothes becomes necessary, can be triggered by relatively harmless conditions, such as anxiety, too many blankets and menopause.
More Serious Conditions
While night sweats are common and are not usually symptoms of a serious medical condition, there are some diseases that do manifest night sweating as a symptom. More serious medical conditions that can trigger night sweats include cancer, infections, HIV and nervous system and endocrine system disorders.
Several medications can cause night sweats as a side effect, including those used to treat high blood pressure and reduce fevers, and antidepressants. Drugs of abuse such as heroin and alcohol can also cause this condition. Be sure to tell your physician all of the medications you are taking, including any over-the counter medications and herbal products.
The most common medical conditions associated with night sweats are idiopathic hyperhidrosis, infection and cancers. Ideopathic hyperhidrosis is a condition of excessive sweating with no identifiable medical cause. Tuberculosis is an infection commonly associated with night sweats, but other possible infection-related causes include inflammation of the heart valves, inflammation within the bones, abscesses and HIV. The most common cancer associated with night sweats is lymphoma.
See a Doctor
If night sweats are accompanied by other symptoms, see a doctor. Fatigue, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, fever, coughing and joint pain can indicate a more serious condition. Your doctor will want to know how long you have been experiencing night sweats and how severe they are. Moderate sweating at night can be caused by anxiety. Drenching night sweats, or having to change clothing several times a night, may be more serious
If you are experiencing fever, your doctor will want to know if the fevers come and go, as in malaria, or stay for several days with several days fever-free, as in undulant fever. He will want to know if you have travelled to foreign countries and have possibly been exposed to exotic infections. He will also want your medical history, including recent surgeries, as well as your sexual history and any drug use.