Here’s How to Tell the Difference Between Sweaty Armpits and Something More Serious

Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold
You know that feeling of having wet pits after a stressful commute? Or trying to hold hands with your date only to have them get too moist after a moment or two? Yeah. So then you're probably also familiar with the consequential rabbit hole that you can go down when trying to diagnose your sweaty situation on the internet. And if you wind up on the same pages that I do, one condition that undoubtedly pops up is likely hyperhidrosis.

"Primary hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive and uncontrollable sweating, which appears to be due to overactivity of the thermoregulatory center in the brain and is transmitted via the sympathetic nervous system to the sweat glands," says Kim Nichols, MD, a Connecticut-based dermatologist. "Hyperhidrosis typically starts in childhood or adolescence, and can improve with age with reduced symptoms at night during sleep."

Since hyperhidrosis involves being extra sweaty, and you may feel like you're already a really sweaty person (which, by the way, I feel you), how can you tell if it's a symptom of a more serious condition? It's easy to get confused—especially if you're prone to pit stains on your clothing or excessively sweaty extremities.

As Dr. Nichols explains: "Sweating when in hot weather, doing physical activity, or in a stressful situation is a normal response. Hyperhidrosis differs in that it interferes with daily activities and quality of life, and excessive sweating occurs." One such example? If your clothing actually becomes damp or stained and has to be changed several times a day, she says.

Also, it goes further than mere moisture. "Hyperhidrosis can cause slippery hands that may lead to avoidance of hand shaking, marks left on paper or fabrics, difficulty writing neatly, unpleasant smells, ruined footwear, and increased risk of blistering or secondary infections."

So needless to say, if these are things you're experiencing, check in with your doctor for the options that could be right for you. This could vary from a clinical-grade antiperspirant to in-office procedures that help with the amount that you're sweating. If what you're experiencing doesn't sound like hyperhidrosis, however, it's still good to check in with your dermatologist to form a plan for how to sweat it...which may or may not include one of these sticks of editor-approved deodorant.

For more pit goodness, here are deodorants without aluminum. And this is what your armpits can tell you about your gut health (yes, really). 

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