One of the things that people tend to worry about is sweating too much. You know, the fear of having pit stains, or perhaps sweating to the point of smelling?
But what if you had the exact opposite problem? What if you couldn’t sweat? Some of us may think of that as a blessing, but in reality, not being able to sweat can be a serious problem. It’s called anhidrosis, and in this article, we’re going to take a look at this inability to sweat.
We will take a look at anhidrosis causes, symptoms of anhidrosis and anhidrosis treatment. Hopefully, by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of anhidrosis and why a lack of sweat can be a problem.
What Is Anhidrosis?
What exactly is anhidrosis? It is the inability to sweat, even when the person is hot or the environment is obviously warm enough to cause sweating. This is not to be confused with hypohydrosis, which is where the sweating is limited. The condition can affect the entire body, which can be a major problem.
Sweating is one of the ways that the body regulates heat. If the body can’t cool itself, the body may start to have some health issues. With this in mind, there are a number of causes that you should be aware of.
Given what anhidrosis does to your body, you may be concerned as to what actually causes it. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can trigger the issue. They include:
• Trauma or damage to the sweat glands and/or the nerves that control sweating
• Diabetic autonomic neuropathy (a loss of sweating due to damage to the nervous system from poorly controlled glucose)
• Ross syndrome (a rare sweating disorder that usually comes with an absence of reflex and the eye disorder, tonic pupil)
• Amyloidosis (accumulated deposits of abnormal proteins called amyloids are caused by a group of diseases in which a major organ system.
• Alcoholic neuropathy due to long-term alcohol abuse
• Sjogren’s syndrome (chronic disorder of the immune system)
• Horner syndrome (caused by damage to the sympathetic nervous system)
• Skin issues like burns and leprosy
• Graft-versus-host disease. This only really affects those who have a bone marrow transplant where immune cells from a bone marrow donor attack the bone marrow transplant patient’s sweat cells.
• Lung cancer (may have the odd effect of causing anhidrosis on one side of the body and excessive sweating on the other side)
• Systemic sclerosis, or scleroderma. This group of rare chronic, progressive autoimmune diseases cause the connective tissues and skin to harden and tighten together.
• Sweat gland ducts that are plugged due to bacterial infections and/or dead skin.
Symptoms of Anhidrosis
The symptoms of anhidrosis, for the most part, come about due to your body’s struggle to regulate its heat due to the lack of sweat. Common symptoms of anhidrosis are:
• Little-to-no sweating
• Flushed appearance
• Overall weakness
• Feeling hot and unable to cool off
• Changes in pulse and blood pressure
• Muscle cramps
The symptoms that come with a lack of sweating can be very serious. Due to some of these symptoms, there’s even a slim chance you could go into a coma. Due to all of this, if you think you might have anhidrosis, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Anhidrosis can do some serious damage to your health, so diagnosing it as soon as possible is rather important. The doctor will start as with any other medical exam and ask you about your recent medical history. Depending on aspects of that medical history, the doctor will then physically examine you to determine what tests they might do to further the diagnosis. The more common tests are:
1. Alizarin red powder
In this test, your body is coated with alizarin red powder. When the powder becomes moist, the powder changes color from orange to purple. This is to indicate whether you are sweating or not.
Electrodes are filled with acetylcholine and then placed on the wrist of different areas of the leg. The electrodes will send out mild electrical stimulation and acetylcholine, a naturally-occurring chemical, enters the skin. The acetylcholine stimulates the sweat glands at which point, the sweat responses are measured.
3. Silastic sweat imprint test
In another test involving electrodes, doctors give the patient pilocarpine to stimulate the sweat glands. After which, an imprint of the sweat droplets appears as indentations on a material made of silicone rubber.
This, along with the various methods of monitoring your temperature, is to determine how much, if at all you are sweating and what your body’s temperature is sitting at. After a diagnosis of anhidrosis is made, you can then move on to treatment.
Treatment for anhidrosis depends on what is causing the issue in the first place. Once the underlying cause is treated, the anhidrosis will often disappear on its own. But that can take a little bit of time, and the last thing you want is for anhidrosis to take you down while treating its root cause. There are a few things you can do in the meantime that can help your situation:
• Rest in a cool environment. The less your body tries to sweat, the better.
• Keep hydrated. Drinking a good amount of water or a drink that can help restore electrolytes.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing that breathes.
• Cool yourself regularly. Don’t be afraid of cooling yourself off when you are hot by using a cold cloth.
These should keep you relatively cool and help control the symptoms until the treatments for the cause of your anhidrosis begin to work and your anhidrosis lessens and then disappears. But if you prevent the anhidrosis from beginning in the first place, you’re better off on a whole.
Anhidrosis is generally difficult to prevent. As we have noted, it comes about because of other causes. If you can prevent those causes, you can prevent anhidrosis. Alas, this might be fairly hard, so you can take the following steps to prevent certain issues from arising.
• Don’t go outside on hot days.
• Wear loose, light clothing when it’s warm.
• Make sure you don’t overexert yourself doing physical activities.
• Keep in mind the symptoms that we’ve listed: learn to recognize them and treat them quickly.
Anhidrosis Is Serious Business
The inability to sweat should be taken seriously. Not sweating can cause a ton of side effects, some of which are very serious. The best thing to do is just be prepared. Learn to recognize the symptoms and see a doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, keep your body cool and try not to get into a situation where you would normally sweat. The energy you spend fighting with anhidrosis, the more energy your body has to help clear up the issue that is causing it. And, be sure not to lose hope. While anhidrosis can be very serious, it is treatable with time and care.
“Anhidrosis (Lack of Sweat),” Cleveland Clinic; https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/anhidrosis, last accessed June 15, 2017.
Nordqvist, C., “What is Anhidrosis?” Medical News Today, October 4, 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266427.php, last accessed June 15, 2017.
“Anhidrosis,” Drugs.com; https://www.drugs.com/mcd/anhidrosis, last accessed June 15, 2017.