Diaphoresis

Diaphoresis

[dahy-uh-fuh-ree-sis]
Diaphoresis is excessive sweating commonly associated with shock and other medical emergency conditions.

Diaphoretic is the state of perspiring profusely, or something that has the power to cause increased perspiration.

Physiological (normal) causes

Normal physical causes of diaphoresis include physical exertion, menopause, fever, spicy foods, and high environmental heat content. Strong emotions (anger, fear) and remembrance of past trauma can also trigger profuse sweating.

The vast majority of sweat glands in the body are innervated by sympathetic cholinergic neurons. Sympathetic cholinergic neurons are sympathetic postganglionic neurons that happen to release acetylcholine instead of norepinephrine.

Pathological causes

Diaphoresis may be associated with some abnormal conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and shock. If it is accompanied by unexplained weight loss or fever or by palpitations, shortness of breath, or chest discomfort, a physician should be consulted. Diabetics relying on insulin shots or oral medications may have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can also cause diaphoresis.

Various drugs (including caffeine, morphine, alcohol, and certain antipsychotics) may be causes, as well as withdrawal from alcohol or narcotic painkiller dependencies. Sympathetic nervous system stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines have also been associated with diaphoresis. Diaphoresis due to ectopic catecholamine is a classic symptom of a pheochromocytoma, a rare tumor of the adrenal gland.

Diaphoresis is also seen in an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), from the increased firing of the sympathetic nervous system, and is frequent in serotonin syndrome. Diaphoresis can also be caused by many types of infections, often accompanied by fever and/or chills. Most infections can cause some degree of diaphoresis and it is a very common symptom in some serious infections such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Treatment

When diaphoresis is pathologic, the underlying cause should be treated. When the cause is menopause, the woman may wish to ask her physician about estrogen replacement.

Once pathological and environmental causes of diaphoresis are ruled out by a physician, it is more accurately referred to as hyperhidrosis.

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