What are night sweats?
Night sweats are also called as nocturnal hyperhidrosis, which means excessive sweating during the night. Night sweats are episodes of continuous sweating at night even when the environmental temperature is very cold. Some people may sweat so extensively that they might find their bed sheets drenched in the morning. Although night sweats are so annoying, they are usually harmless.
If you only experience them once in a while, then there is nothing for you to worry about because such presentations do not indicate a serious medical condition. However, if you have been repeatedly experiencing night sweats, then it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If this is the case, then you should visit a healthcare professional.
What are the causes of night sweats?
There are several well-known causes of night sweats and some of the most common causes are mentioned below. They include:
- Menopause - Having night sweats is a common symptom that accompanies hot flashes in many women who are in their 5th decade and experiencing menopause.
- Alcohol or Drug Abuse - Alcohol and drug dependence can cause night sweats. Drinking or taking drugs can increase an individual's heart rate and widen blood vessels, which can trigger sweating. Withdrawal from these substances also causes night sweats.
- Hypoglycemia - Hypoglycemia is a common condition in many people with diabetes while taking anti-diabetic drugs and insulin. During an episode of hypoglycemia, you may develop shivering and tremors that are associated with night sweats.
- Pulmonary Tuberculosis - It is an infection of the lungs caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is the most common infectious condition that is associated with night sweats. However, there are other diseases such as the HIV infection, abscesses, and osteomyelitis that may give rise to night sweats as well.
- Cancer - Night sweats can be an early symptom of certain cancers such as lymphomas and leukemias. However, this is not a common presenting symptom and cancer would manifest with other symptoms as well, such as sudden and unexpected weight loss and loss of appetite.
- Hyperthyroidism - If your thyroid gland is overactive, then you have a condition called as hyperthyroidism. Having night sweats is a common symptom of hypothyroidism as well.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - Sometimes, night sweats are also seen in people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease. However, experiencing night sweats is not a common symptom that is usually seen in such patients.
- Anxiety - If you are anxious about something, then you may also experience night sweats.
- Drugs - Drugs such as antidepressants, hypoglycemic agents, and hormonal therapy can also cause night sweats.
When should you seek treatment?
Night sweats are usually harmless and not a usual cause for concern. However, sometimes, having night sweats can be an indicator that you have an underlying medical condition. Therefore, if you are frequently having night sweats that disturb your sleep or when night sweats are associated with other signs and symptoms, then it is time for you to visit a healthcare professional.
If you have night sweats associated with the signs and symptoms such as loss of weight and appetite, fever, or a cough, then it may be a sign of a serious medical condition. Additionally, if you have already been diagnosed with lymphoma or AIDS, then it may be a sign that your condition is progressing. Visit your health care professional in such situations as well.
How are night sweats treated?
Before your doctor plans your treatment, he or she will first have to find the underlying cause of your night sweats and make a diagnosis.
First, the doctor will start by taking a detailed history including the signs and symptoms that you are currently experiencing plus your past medical and family history. After taking your history, the doctor will then examine you thoroughly to come to an accurate diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, he or she will then plan your treatment. The treatment will vary depending on the underlying condition:
- Hormonal Therapy - If your night sweats are because of menopause, then your doctor will start you on a hormonal therapy, which may help relieve your symptoms.
- Prescribed Medication - If the underlying cause of your night sweats is an infection, then your doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal medications.
- Chemotherapy - If cancer is found to be the underlying cause, then your doctor may recommend a chemotherapeutic drug along with other treatments or surgery.
- Alternative Drugs - If your night sweats are occurring as a side effect of the drugs that you are taking, then your doctor may recommend on either stopping that particular drug or will prescribe you alternative drugs.
- Limiting alcohol, certain drugs, and caffeine consumption - If these substances are the underlying cause of your night sweats, then your doctor will advise you to limit or reduce their intake. Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe you certain drugs that will help you get over such addictions.
Simple measures such as wearing light clothes at night, sleeping without a blanket, opening a window in your bedroom, or by turning on the air conditioner in your room may help reduce your night sweats and let you have a good night’s sleep.
How can you prevent night sweats?
The prevention of night sweats also depends on the underlying cause. Some underlying causes of night sweats can be prevented. The following tips may help you reduce the frequency of experiencing night sweats:
- Limit or stop the consumption of alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- Stop using drugs and try to get out from such addiction.
- Avoid tobacco smoking.
- If your bedroom temperature is really warm at night, then open the windows to cool down the room. Maintain a cooler temperature in your bedroom at night to help you sleep better.
- Do not eat any spicy foods, exercise, or drink any warm drinks just before bedtime.
- If you suspect that you have an underlying condition such as an infection, then visit your healthcare provider for prompt treatment.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes at night and instead wear some loose, comfortable clothes, or anything that will help you sleep comfortably at night.
- If you are under stress for some reasons, do something to calm yourself so you will feel more relaxed such as yoga and meditation. Even listening to some relaxing music can help.