No sweat: Could it be anhidrosis?

| Originally Published: June 7, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 25, 2005
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Dear Dr. Alice,

I have a wonderful daughter who is very active and loves to play soccer. The problem for her is that she never seems to sweat and her face turns bright red, which concerns us greatly. She loves to have her face cooled with a cold towel when she comes to the sideline. None of her other teammates seem to have this problem, however, and she seems to be normally hydrated before her games and practices. I've heard of the condition Anhidrosis (lack of sweat), but can't seem to find much on this. Can you help?

Thank you.

Dear Reader,

Alice is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV; she is, however, in close contact with many health care providers when researching responses to questions like yours.

Anhidrosis is simply the medical name for a significantly decreased amount of sweating. This can be a serious problem all by itself because sweating is the body's main way of getting rid of excess heat. A person who doesn't sweat (or doesn't sweat enough) can easily become overheated, and even have a heat stroke — a life threatening condition in which the body temperature gets dangerously high.

Many different health conditions can cause anhidrosis, including the following possibilities:

  • skin diseases or conditions that can block or clog sweat ducts
  • injury to the skin and sweat glands, including burns
  • dehydration and heat stroke
  • malfunctions of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that regulates temperature), or other neurological conditions
  • thyroid gland problems
  • use of certain medications

Depending on the cause of the anhidrosis, treatments and prognosis can vary. For example, burns or other injuries may cause irreversible damage to sweat glands, leaving affected areas permanently sweat free. Thyroid problems or other underlying causes of anhidrosis can often be treated, allowing folks to perspire freely.

Only a health care provider can determine whether your daughter's lack of sweating is something to be concerned about or just a normal variation in her body's cooling mechanism. Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with her pediatrician. Your daughter should take frequent breaks so that she does not become overheated when she plays soccer or is physically active. Drinking plenty of cool water or juice is a good way for her to stay cool and well hydrated when playing. The cold towel you mention using is another great idea. Resting when she seems to get hot, has a red face, or is out of breath also makes sense.

Alice

November 23, 2005

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Dear Alice,

A woman asked you about not sweating.

You need to mention that Fabry's Disease is one cause. (1 in 40,000 people have it.)

Thanks,
Sam

Dear Alice,

A woman asked you about not sweating.

You need to mention that Fabry's Disease is one cause. (1 in 40,000 people have it.)

Thanks,
Sam