Sweating And Body Odor

1 What are Sweating and Body Odor?

Sweating and body odor are common problems for most people. Body odor is also known as bromhidrosis, and is the offensive smell that results from heavy sweating. Heavy perspiration may occur during rigorous exercising, when your under stress, anxiety, or nervousness, and when the temperature is too warm. 

Our body has two major types of sweat glands, namely, eccrine glands and apocrine glands. The eccrine glands are spread across the skin and regulate the body temperature whereas apocrine glands are found in hairy areas of the body such as armpits and genital areas.  

The sweat produced by the eccrine gland does not have a bad smell. The unpleasant body odor is produced when the skin bacteria act upon the sweat to dissociate into acids. Sweat may take an offensive odour if you consume alcohol or food containing garlic and other spices. 

The sweat produced by the apocrine glands is responsible for body odor as it contains high levels of protein that is easy for the bacteria to break down. Abnormalities in sweating, either excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) or minimal/absence of perspiration (anhidrosis) is a sign of an underlying problem. 

Similarly, changes in body odor is a concern. People who produce more sweat from their apocrine glands or have large amounts of bacteria on their skin are likely to have offensive body odor. However, lifestyle and home remedies could be helpful for normal sweating and body odor.

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of sweating and body odor vary from one person to another.

It is natural for some people to sweat more or less compared to other people. In the same way, body odor varies from one person to another. 

You may need to consult your doctor if you have the following concerns: 

  • All of a sudden, you tend to sweat much more or less than usual,
  • Sweating seems to interfere with your daily routine,
  • Night sweats may occur for no apparent reason,
  • You note that your body odor has changed.
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3 Causes

Sweating and body odor are natural, and are caused by an increase in body temperature.

Your skin has two types of sweat glands:

  • eccrine glands,
  • apocrine glands.

Eccrine glands are spread over most of your body skin and open directly onto the surface of the skin. 

Apocrine glands are seen in areas with higher number of hair follicles such as your armpits and groin area, and they empty into a hair follicle just before it opens onto the surface of the skin. When the body temperature increases, your eccrine glands secrete sweat onto the skin surface, where it cools down your body as it evaporates. 

The sweat is a mixture of water and salt. Apocrine glands produce a milky fluid that is usually secreted when you are subjected to emotional stress. This fluid does not smell bad until it combines with the bacteria, which are normal inhabitants of your skin.

4 Making a Diagnosis

You may initially consult your family physician or primary care doctor to receive a diagnosis of sweating and body odor. In some cases, you may be referred to a specialist in skin diseases (dermatologist). Here is some information that can help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do?

Prepare a list of questions that you need to ask your doctor. For sweating and body odor, some basic questions you may ask your doctor include: 

  • What is the likely cause for my symptoms? 
  • Is my condition reversible or chronic? 
  • What is the best available treatment?
  • Are there any alternative options to the primary approach that you have advised?

 

What to expect from your doctor? 

Your doctor may ask you several questions such as: 

  • When did you first experience your symptoms? 
  • How often do you get your symptoms?
  • Do you always have these symptoms, or are they transient? 
  • Is there anything that seems to improve or worsen your symptoms? 

On the day of your appointment, your doctor will take your past medical history and conduct a physical examination. Blood or urine tests may be ordered to check the root cause of your problem such as an underlying medical condition that may include infection, diabetes or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

5 Treatment

The remedy for the problem of excessive sweating and body odor includes an over-the-counter antiperspirant and deodorant. 

Antiperspirants

Antiperspirants are made of aluminium-based compounds that can temporarily block the sweat pore, thereby decreases the amount of sweat that reaches your skin.

Deodorants

Deodorants can get rid of the body odor but not perspiration. They are alcohol-based and convert your skin environment to acidic, making it unattractive to the bacteria. Deodorants contain perfume that can mask the odor. 

  

If over-the-counter antiperspirants are ineffective in controlling your perspiration, your doctor may prescribe aluminum chloride (Drysol, Xerac Ac). For optimal results, apply the antiperspirant to the areas prone to sweating, in the night. 

Prescription antiperspirants are usually strong solutions that may cause skin to turn red, swollen and itchy in some people. Discontinue the use of such medication if irritation develops.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

You can take several lifestyle measures on your own to reduce sweating and body odor. The following tips may help: 

  • Bathe daily and keep yourselves clean:Regular bathing, especially with an antibacterial soap, reduces the bacterial growth on your skin and in turn cuts down your body odor. 
  • Choose suitable clothing for every activity: For daily wear, choose natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk that allow your skin breathe freely. During exercise, you may wear manmade fabrics that are designed to absorb moisture from your skin. 
  • Apply deodorants and antiperspirants: Use a deodorant or antiperspirants twice in a day. At bedtime, apply antiperspirants to palms or soles of the feet. Choose perfume-free antiperspirants. 
  • Avoid 'offensive' foods in your diet: Eliminate caffeinated drinks and spicy food with strong smell that may make you sweat more and contribute to strong body odor than usual. 
  • Try relaxation techniques: Consider relaxation techniques such as Yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These practices can help you manage the stress that triggers perspiration.

7 Risks and Complications

There are several risks associated with sweating and body odor.

Anyone who has reached puberty and have fully developed apocrine sweat glands can produce body odor. Men are likely to produce more body odor as they tend to sweat more compared to women.

Risk factors that make your body odour worse include:

  • being overweight,
  • consuming rich aromatic spicy foods,
  • certain underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes.
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