Why Don’t I Sweat?

Most people view sweat as a nuisance. It does not smell good and it leaves rings of stain on clothes. However, it is important to understand that sweating is an important physiological function, and if you do not sweat, things can get very ugly.

Why you should sweat

Following are five benefits of sweat to your body:

1. Cooling down

Sweating is the body’s natural way of maintaining internal body temperature. The inability to sweat, either as a result of a genetic disorder, a medical complication or as a side effect of certain medication, can result in dangerously high body temperatures. This can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

2. Detoxification

The skin is one of the body’s primary channels of detoxification. When you sweat, the pathogens and other toxins that are trapped in your skin’s pores are expelled. This ensures that you enjoy a radiant, clear skin while preventing several skin conditions.

3. Immune booster

The detoxifying action of sweating helps the immune system in expelling pathogens and other toxins from the body. When you contract a fever, it serves to destroy the pathogens in the body that cannot survive high temperatures. These dead pathogens are eventually expelled from the body via sweat.

4. Protect your kidneys

According to experts, working up a sweat through regular exercise can help lower your risk of developing kidney stones. This is likely due to the salts dissolved and excreted from the body with sweat, along with the extra water that you are likely to consume while exercising.

5. A sign of an effective workout

Working up a sweat at the gym or while jogging is an indication that your heart rate is up and your body is reaping the cardiovascular benefits of exercising. Just be sure to keep adequately hydrated to replace the fluids you are losing through sweat.

Factors that may lead to lack of sweat

Following are some of the factors that may lead to hypohidrosis:

1. Certain medications

Certain medication, especially antipsychotic drugs, which are used for treating severe mental disorders, may interfere with the normal functioning of the patient’s sweat glands. Additionally, medications that contain anticholinergic properties, as well as calcium-channel blockers, may cause hypohidrosis.

2. Genetic conditions

While this is rare, some people are born without sweat glands. Specifically, males with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, do suffer from an inability to sweat. The risk of these individuals dying from overheating (hyperthermia) is high especially when exposed to hot environments.

3. Damage to the nervous system

Damage to the nerves that are responsible for controlling involuntary functions of the autonomic nervous system such as regulation of the body’s internal organs, blood pressure and sweat glands, can interfere with the individual’s ability to sweat. Such nerve damage can be caused by various medical conditions such as gout, diabetes, B-vitamin deficiency, as well as the excessive consumption of alcohol.

4. Clogged ducts

Skin infections and conditions that cause blockage or clogging of sweat ducts (a condition referred to as poral occlusion) are the most common causes of hypohidrosis. This is how antiperspirants work, albeit on a temporary and localized basis.

5. Injuries to the skin

Skin injuries, especially on sweat glands, can also cause hypohidrosis. Such injuries occur as a result of a medical overdose, third-degree burns from chemicals, fire and electricity and poisoning.

6. Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when you do not have adequate water in your system to carry on normal physiological functions. Most people get dehydrated when they work or exercise in hot weather without drinking enough water to replenish what has been lost through perspiration. Other common causes of fluid loss include diarrhea, vomiting and use of diuretics (medications that increase urination). If these problems persist, you may eventually lose a lot of fluid to the point that you are unable to sweat. Severe dehydration can be fatal, especially in small children and elderly people.

7. Heat stroke

Like hydration, heat stroke happens when you work or exercise strenuously in hot weather without taking adequate water to replenish lost fluids. Heat stroke is a rather serious condition because it shuts down the body’s natural mechanism for dealing with heat stress. Like severe dehydration, heat stroke too can be fatal especially in small children and older adults.

Common hypohidrosis FAQs

What are the symptoms of hypohidrosis?

Here are the common symptoms of hypohidrosis:

  • Weakness and muscle cramps
  • Minimal to no sweating even when everyone around you is sweating profusely
  • Feeling overly hot
  • Dizziness
  • Flushed appearance

How is hypohidrosis diagnosed?

Your physician will need to rely on a comprehensive medical history to diagnose hypohidrosis. Be sure to share all the symptoms you have experienced with your doctor during your appointment. Tell your doctor if you sweat in certain parts of your body and not in others. Here are some of the tests your doctor might perform to diagnose this condition:

  • Axon reflex test – this involves the use of small electrodes to stimulate the sweat glands before measuring the volume of the produced sweat.
  • Silastic sweat imprint test – this test measures the location of sweat in your body
  • Thermoregulatory sweat test - During this test, your skin is coated with a powder that turns color in locations where there is sweat. Your body is then exposed to conditions that would trigger sweat under natural circumstances.
  • Skin biopsy – involves observation of sweat glands and skin cells under the microscope.

How is hypohidrosis treated?

Hypohidrosis that only affects a small part of the body may be benign hence does not require treatment. If your hypohidrosis is caused by an underlying medical condition, then your doctor will opt to treat the condition in order to eliminate or minimize the condition.

If your condition is triggered by the use of certain medication, then your doctor may recommend a change of medication or adjustment to the dosage.

Can hypohidrosis be prevented?

Preventing hypohidrosis may not be possible. However, you can take certain steps to manage complications associated with overheating. Wearing loose, light-colored clothing in hot weather, staying indoors during hot summer months and taking care not to overexert yourself in the heat can go a long way when managing the effects of hypohidrosis.

You can also cool your body off and avoid overheating by applying water or cool clothes on your skin to make you feel like you are sweating.

Conclusion

Sweating is body’s natural mechanism of cooling off. It also has several other physiological benefits. However, some people are unable to sweat due to damage to, or lack of, the sweat glands. Known as hypohidrosis or anhidrosis, this condition can affect a single area or the entire body. It can also be scattered in different areas of the body. Effective treatment of hypohidrosis begins with a proper diagnosis of the cause of the condition.