Sweat Life

"To grunt and sweat under a weary life..." - William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist Hamlet. Act iii, Sc. 1.

MANILA, Philippines - Strange isn't it that summer's over and we're sweating all over.

It's the thick, sticky kind of sweat behind the collar. Some would call it the stinking sweat of fear and uncertainty. Is this the anxious, collective perspiration we can do little about (maybe even choose not to)?

There is a kind of excessive sweating, however, that is medically soluble. The condition is called hyperhidrosis and, however one denies it, it's smelled and seen. Hyperhidrosis is a wet shirt under the armpits, moist and nose-crinkling socks, and no one misses this - wet or dripping palms. A person with hyperhidrosis produces up to fives times more sweat than normal people.

Sweat glands. The human body has its own air-conditioning. When it's too hot, sweat glands release fluid that quickly evaporates giving a cooling effect. Thus the body does not overheat. The are about 4 million sweat glands all over the body and most of them are the eccrine type. They are located mostly around the armpits, soles of the feet, the palms, cheeks, and forehead. Sweat is mostly water with salt or sodium chloride. The body odor associated with perspiration is due to the fatty fluid that is released by the other type of sweat gland, the apocrine. The interaction of the apocrine fluid and skin bacteria causes the odor that deodorants try to neutralize.

Sweating is normal on a hot day, during exercise, and instances of fear and stress, the so-called "fight or flight" reflex. Hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, is excessive and abnormal sweating.

Causes. Hyperhidrosis can be caused by:

Heredity - whole families can have wet armpits, soles and palms.

Food habits - coffee and hot beverages make people sweat; so does spicy food.

Overactive thyroid - in hyperthyroidism, too much of the hormone thyroxine contributes to abnormal sweating.

Tuberculosis - presents as cough, fever, and night sweats.

Malaria - along with fever, chills, headache and vomiting, profuse sweating occurs as the body temperature goes down.

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