Why Do We Sweat?

Why Do We Sweat?

We’ve all been there. It’s summer, you’re out doing yard work, laying by the pool, watching your kid play football or even walking to the store. It’s hot, and you start sweating. But why? Sweating plays a big role in maintaining internal body temperature and keep organs functioning normally. It is a cooling mechanism. As sweat reaches the skin, it evaporates and cools the body. Exercise raises your internal body temperature, as well as raising heart rate and blood pressure. Emotions can also affect the sweat glands, which is why you may sweat when nervous or anxious.

Types of Sweat Glands

The human body has over two million sweat organs in the skin. There are two types. The ecrine organs reside mostly in the palms, foot soles, and temples. Sweat from these organs are clear and salty, as they contain sodium, chloride and potassium. On the other hand, apocrine organs are found in the scalp, armpits and groin. Due to the composition of unsaturated fats, sweat from these organs may be yellowish in color, which contributes to discoloration on lighter shirts. Sweat itself has no scent. Body odor occurs when bacteria comes into contact with sweat, and it varies from person to person. A key difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is that deodorant hides odor, while antiperspirant helps limit sweating. Furthermore, people sweat more in humid climates, than in arid ones. Because of the moisture in the air, sweat cannot evaporate as effectively.

Emotional Sweating

Tension and anxiety can trigger the adrenal glands to produce epinephrine discharge, usually in the palms or armpits. In a perceived threat, the body issues the ‘fight or flight’ response. The body releases multiple hormones, such as testosterone and cortisol, as well as neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, when preparing to face or flee conflict. The heart rate increases and the body prepares to cool itself from a dramatic rise in body temperature, due to either fighting or running away.

Excessive Sweating

Sweating is a natural bodily response, and should be expected. But what if you’re sweating more than normal? Primary focal hyperhidrosis affects specific body parts, including the underarms groin, head, hands and feet. It may be bothersome, but does not really interfere with daily activities. Experts think it results from a minor nervous sytem malfunction. However, secondary general hyperhidriosis affects the entire body, and is a more serious medical issue. Night sweats are a sign. This condition can be triggered by menopause, pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, heart failure, some cancers and some antibiotics. You should consult a doctor if you have night sweats, are sweating all over your body, if it only started after a new medication or if it has suddenly appeared or gotten worse. Excessive sweating can also be a sign your body temperature is much too high, such in the case of heat stroke.

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