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Absence of sweating

Decreased sweating; Anhidrosis

An abnormal lack of sweat in response to heat may be harmful, because sweating allows heat to be released from the body. The medical term for absent sweating is anhidrosis.

Considerations

Anhidrosis sometimes goes unrecognized until a substantial amount of heat or exertion fails to cause sweating.

Overall lack of sweating can be life threatening because the body will overheat. If the lack of sweating happens in a small area only, it is usually not as dangerous.

Causes

Cause of anhidrosis may include:

  • Burns
  • Brain tumor
  • Certain genetic syndromes
  • Certain nerve problems (neuropathies)
  • Congenital disorders including ectodermal dysplasia
  • Dehydration
  • Nervous system disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Skin diseases or scarring of the skin that block sweat glands
  • Trauma to sweat glands
  • Use of certain drugs

Home Care

If there is a danger of overheating, take the following measures:

  • Take a cool shower or sit in a bathtub with cool water
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Stay in a cool environment
  • Move slowly
  • DO NOT do heavy exercise

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have a general lack of sweating or an abnormal lack of sweating when exposed to heat or strenuous exercise.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam. In emergencies, the health care team will perform rapid cooling measures and give you fluids to stabilize you.

You may be asked about your symptoms and medical history.

You may be asked to wrap yourself in an electric blanket or sit in a sweatbox while the health care team watches your body's reaction. Other tests to cause and measure sweating may also be done.

A skin biopsy may be done. Genetic testing may be done if appropriate.

Treatment depends on the cause of your lack of sweating. You may be given medicine to cause sweating.

References

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Diseases of the skin appendages. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 33.

Miller JL. Diseases of the eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:chap 39.

          Review Date: 4/16/2019

          Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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