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Excessive Sweating - More Ways than One
There are actually several different forms or types of perspiration.
This type of sweating is also called thermoregulatory sweating and involves the eccrine sweat glands which are found over just about the entire body surface. This process is critical in that it maintains the body’s temperature at 37°C (98.6°F). Of course this value will vary slightly depending where the temperature is taken. In the event that the body needs to cool off, dilation of the surface or skin blood vessels will also play a significant role in reducing temperature. Hyperthermia (increase in body temperature), a potentially life-threatening condition, will result if these mechanisms fail.
A small brain centre called the hypothalamus acts as the body’s thermostat. Any increase in temperature (internal or from temperature receptors in the skin) will be sensed by the hypothalamus. If this happens, the hypothalamus will instruct the nervous system to send signals to the heat fighting mechanisms. Signals will initially be interpreted to vasodilate surface vessels.
If this is not sufficient, additional signals will instruct the sweat glands to start pumping sweat. Perspiring is the most effective cooling mechanism in humans.
For more on the cellular aspects behind excessive sweating,
see the video below
Emotional sweating occurs in response to emotive stimuli such as fear, stress, pain and anxiety. Although it can occur over the whole body surface, it is most evident on the palms, soles, underarms and forehead. In contrast to thermal sweating, emotional sweating occurs independent of ambient temperature.
Emotional sweating begins early in life. Babies experience emotional sweating of the palms and soles. Sweating in the underarm region as a reaction to emotion does not occur before puberty. This type of sweating reaction is also present in other mammals (e.g. dogs, rats, hyraxes). This process evolved as a fleeing reaction under stressful situations. The resulting palmoplantar sweating providing increased surface grip for more effective climbing and running.
Apocrine sweat glands react strongly to emotion. The rationale for their involvement is not well understood. There is evidence that apocrine-induced odours exhibit a pheromone-like effect. Pheromones can elicit responses and specific behaviours from those that are exposed to them.
This type of sweating this induced by ingestion of food or drink. It occurs immediately following consumption and is usually restricted to the face, neck and scalp. Two mechanisms appear to be involved - 1) ingestion causes an increase in metabolism resulting in elevation of body temperature and 2) substances found in spicy foods (e.g. capsaicin) bind to warmth receptors in the mouth. Both processes trigger a thermal sweating response. Gustatory sweating is sometimes a complication experienced in individuals with diabetes. A number of different kinds of treatments are available. A simple and well tolerated agent such as glycopyrrolate (oral or topical) has been successful in a number of individuals.
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