Sweating is a natural way the body regulates its temperature, and it is normal to sweat. However for some people this is a real problem. Excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, can also be an indication of an underlying illness. Sweating might be more noticeable at night, but some people are troubled by this in the daytime too. The eccrine, or sweat glands, are located all over the skin of the body. They are regulated by the sympathetic nerves, which are controlled by the hypothalmus.
Sometimes, there is no obvious cause of excessive sweating. This is known as idiopathic hyperhidrosis. According to the website MedicineNet, of 2267 patients who visited a doctor's office, 41 per cent reported excessive sweating night sweats, in the previous month. Not all of these people had an underlying medical or hormonal problem. In some cases, people keep the temperature in their bedrooms or bed too warm. It is usually possible to decide if the problem is idiopathic hyperhidrosis by a process of elimination.
Many women report hot flushes, and night sweats associated with menopause. In fact, this can start in the peri-menopausal stage, which may begin several years before menstrual periods stop. Symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats are caused by hormonal changes at this time. There are clear links between hormonal imbalance and sweating. Men who are taking hormonal medication to control prostate cancer also report excessive sweating.
Doctors will check for an underlying infection if a patient complains of excessive sweating. Many bacterial infections can be at the root of this symptom. Commonly, bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, endocarditis or osteomyelitis may cause high temperature and sweating. Some cancers may also be at the root of sweating, particularly night sweats, but there are usually other indications too, such as weight loss.
Some medications have side-effects that include sweating. Antidepressants, including the tricyclics can cause sweating. Other medications which may cause hyperhidrosis include steroids and antipyretic drugs.