Alcohol and Excessive Sweating

Have you heard about the connection between alcohol and sweating? Alcohol is known to increase excessive sweating related to hyperhidrosis, and here is why!
Alcohol and Excessive Sweating

Alcohol consumption is a common practice, especially amongst young adults in America. Most people are aware that drinking alcohol causes certain physiological side effects in the body, like a hangover the day after. However, most are unaware of the connection between alcohol and certain medical conditions. Recent data suggests that about 4% of all deaths globally can be attributed to alcohol.[1] While most of the potential effects from alcohol are not so morbid, the side effects from alcohol use can have a negative impact on an individuals health, especially for an individual who has a pre-existing condition. This is the case for someone who suffers from hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes a person to sweat in excess of what is needed by the body for thermoregulation due to overactive sweat glands.[2] For someone with hyperhidrosis, alcohol consumption is not one of the the primary causes of their excessive sweating, but it can greatly increase the amount of sweat they produce when it is consumed. Other aspects of alcohol use can also cause excessive sweating, which is often the case when a person has an alcohol intolerance or is suffering from alcohol withdrawal. One of the ways people with hyperhidrosis can manage their sweat is by consuming less alcohol.

How Alcohol Consumption Causes Sweating

Alcohol has the ability to affect multiple organ systems in the body, but the most notable symptoms come from how it impacts the brain. This accounts not only for the changes in behavior that people experience, but for some of the physiological side effects as well. Alcohol is known to be a sedative and a mild anesthetic, which means that it works on parts of the brain that are responsible for certain physiological functions. Some of the physiological changes caused by alcohol are flushing, sweating, tachycardia (increased pulse) and increases in blood pressure. This is thought to occur due to stimulation of the hypothalamus and the release of chemicals called sympathetic amines and pituitary-adrenal hormones.[3] The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that is used to control the autonomic nervous system and pituitary gland. It is responsible for regulating physiological processes like body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems. So, when the hypothalamus is stimulated by alcohol, excessive sweating can be the result. This is especially pertinent to someone who already has hyperhidrosis, as they will likely experience more sweating in addition to the excessive sweating they already suffer from. Interestingly, dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system, is thought to be one of the causative factors in hyperhidrosis.[2] This is one of the parts of the brain that is specifically affected by alcohol, so it makes sense that excessive sweating is a symptom of both alcohol intake and hyperhidrosis. Some people also report experiencing night sweats and an increase in stress sweating after consuming alcohol, although the association has not been confirmed.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Excessive Sweating

Another way in which alcohol can cause symptoms of excessive sweating is if someone with an alcohol addiction experiences withdrawal. Alcohol acts as in a way that depresses the nervous system and slows its activity, and the opposite effect is seen in people who are going through withdrawal. This means that activity in their brain will be overstimulated in those in those going through withdrawal, and they experience painful side effects as a result. Physical signs of a heightened autonomic nervous system include rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, diaphoresis, and shaking. Diaphoresis is unexplained excessive sweating, and alcohol withdrawal is one of the conditions that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis. It is important to understand the distinction between the development of secondary hyperhidrosis due to alcohol withdrawal, and the fact that consuming alcohol can worsen the symptoms of primary hyperhidrosis as they are two separate forms of hyperhidrosis. Other symptoms that can be caused by alcohol withdrawal include seizures, hallucinations, delirium, and other psychological distress.[4] Alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition and it is important for someone struggling with it to receive medical attention.

Alcohol Intolerance and Excessive Sweating

Some people suffer from a condition called alcohol intolerance which causes them to have a negative reaction to consuming alcohol. This is due to a genetic variation that prevents them from being able to metabolize alcohol normally. Some people with this condition experience excessive sweating as a result. Other symptoms include facial flushing, GI issues, and other physiological manifestations. Alcohol intolerance only causes symptoms after it has been ingested.[5]

Is Alcohol Safe for Someone With Hyperhidrosis?

It is safe for someone with hyperhidrosis to drink alcohol, but it is prudent for a person with the condition to be aware of how alcohol affects them. This can reduce the discomfort that may be caused by sweating that is exacerbated by alcohol use. Usually, symptoms of alcohol intoxication intensify as more alcohol is consumed. Therefore, it can be understood that the sweating caused by alcohol intake will worsen as more alcohol is consumed, making it beneficial for someone with hyperhidrosis to drink in moderation. The connection between hyperhidrosis and anxiety is also of concern. In some cases, hyperhidrosis has been associated with an increased likelihood for using alcohol due to the fact that it can cause social anxiety. However, a recent study has found that although there is a connection between these factors, participants did not have a significant problem with alcohol abuse.[6] Essentially, a person with hyperhidrosis should look at drinking in a practical way. It is relatively harmless for them to indulge in a glass or two of their preferred drink, but they should be aware of how drinking affects their body. They should learn how much drinking causes them discomfort and only drink up to that point. It is never recommended to drink excessively, and anyone drinking alcohol should be aware of its potential for abuse. Unfortunately, alcohol is the not only enjoyable substance that can cause problems, caffeine is also known to induce excessive sweating.

Sources
  1. Eze, N. M., Njoku, H. A., Eseadi, C., Akubue, B. N., Ezeanwu, B. A., Ugwu, U. C., & Ofuebe, J. I. (2017). Alcohol consumption and awareness of its effects on health among secondary school students in Nigeria. Medicine, 96(48). doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008960
  2. Huddle, J. R. (2014). Hyperhidrosis: Causes, Treatment Options and Outcomes. New York, NY: Nova Science.
  3. Paton, A. (2005). Alcohol in the Body. British Medical Journal, 330, 85-87. doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7482.85
  4. Morozova, T. B., Mackay, T. F., & Anholt, R. R. (2014). Genetics and genomics of alcohol sensitivity. Molecular Genetics and Genomics, 289(3), 253-269. doi:10.1007/s00438-013-0808-y
  5. Skin Diseases and Conditions - Hyperhidrosis; Researchers from Umea University Detail Findings in Hyperhidrosis (Primary hyperhidrosis: Implications on symptoms, daily life, health and alcohol consumption when treated with botulinum toxin). (2016, October). Health and Medicine Week.
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