What is Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis?

When a person has hyperhidrosis it means that they experience excessive sweating of some kind. Specifically, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis refers to hyperhidrosis symptoms that are secondary to another factor that causes the hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis is also reffered to as diapehoresis, sudden unexplained excessive sweating, in the medical community. People with this type of hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating all over their body, not just in a particular area or distribution. It is the second most common type of hyperhidrosis; one review of hyperhidrosis patients found that only 7% of hyperhidrosis cases were caused by secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis tends to begin after the age of 25, although it can have an earlier age of onset. The sweating caused by secondary generalized hyperhidrosis can occur symmetrically on both sides of the body, or less commonly, it can occur on only one side. It’s symptoms are typically worse at night and many patients with the condition experience night sweats. The most important feature of secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, however, is that it has a specific cause. The causes of this type of hyperhidrosis can be bad for you health, so it is important to seek out medical attention.[1]

The Causes of Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis

There are several potential causes of excessive sweating related to secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, some of which are benign while others are more dangerous. It is important for anyone with this condition to manage their hyperhidrosis with a doctor so that they can determine its cause. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is most commonly caused by certain medicines or drugs, as either a side effect or a symptom of withdrawal. Some of the medications that are most likely to cause hyperhidrosis are antidepressants, antiglycemic agents, cholinergics, antipyretics, and several others. Alcohol can also cause hyperhidrosis as either a side effect of intoxication or as a symptom of withdrawal. The good news is that when a person stops a medication that is causing hyperhidrosis the symptoms will go away completely.[1]

Certain diseases and physiologic conditions can also cause secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, and it can sometimes be a sign of a larger problem. Some of the physiological conditions that can cause hyperhidrosis are pregnancy, menopause, fever, and excessive heat. These are all normal conditions that happen to people, especially women, over the course of a lifetime and they are not dangerous. In most cases hyperhidrosis is not dangerous, but secondary generalized hyperhidrosis can be indicative of a larger medical issue. This is especially true if a disease is causing diaphoresis and pallor at the same time. Some of the pathological causes of hyperhidrosis include malignancy (cancer), carcinoid syndrome, hyperthyroidism, tuberculosis, HIV, endocarditis, and many other diseases. If someone suddenly develops secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, as is most often the case, then they need to manage their hyperhidrosis with a doctor to determine whether they are suffering from a damaging condition.[1]

How to Get Rid of Secondary Generalized Hyperhidrosis

Luckily, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is easily treatable. In most cases, once the causative agent is removed or dealt with the excessive sweating will stop. This means discontinuing any medications or drugs that cause hyperhidrosis or treating an underlying condition that is causing it. In some situations, a person might not be able to stop a medication that is causing excessive sweating. For example, a patient with a severe psychological condition that has only responded to one particular medication can’t reasonably stop their treatment. In this case, a person can choose to deal with the excessive sweating or use an oral medication to treat hyperhidrosis.[1]

Are you worried that you might have hyperhidrosis? Take this simple test to find out.

  1. Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.