Sweating and body odor are facts of life for most people. Heavy perspiration and body odor can happen when you exercise; when you’re too warm; or when you’re nervous, anxious or under stress.
Your body has two main types of sweat glands, and they produce very different types of sweat. Both types are odorless, but the type of sweat produced in your armpits and groin smells bad when it combines with bacteria found normally on your skin.
Unusual changes in sweating — either excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) or little or no perspiration (anhidrosis) — can be cause for concern. Likewise, changes in body odor can be a sign of a medical problem. Usually, lifestyle and home treatments can effectively manage symptoms caused by normal sweating and body odor.
Some people naturally sweat more or less than other people. Body odor can vary from person to person. See a doctor if:
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▪ You suddenly begin to sweat much more or less than usual.
▪ Sweating disrupts your daily routine.
▪ You experience night sweats for no apparent reason.
▪ You notice a change in your body odor.
Your skin has two main types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas abundant in hair follicles, such as your armpits and groin, and they empty into the hair follicle just before it opens onto the skin surface.
When your body temperature rises, your eccrine glands secrete fluid onto the surface of your skin, where it cools your body as it evaporates. This fluid is composed mainly of water and salt.
Apocrine glands produce a milky fluid that most commonly is secreted when you’re under emotional stress. This fluid is odorless until it combines with bacteria found normally on your skin.
You can do a number of things on your own to reduce sweating and body odor. The following suggestions might help:
▪ Bathe daily. Regular bathing, especially with an antibacterial soap, reduces the growth of bacteria on your skin.
▪ Choose clothing to suit your activity. For daily wear, choose natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool and silk. These allow your skin to breathe. For exercise wear, you might prefer synthetic fabrics developed to wick moisture away from your skin.
▪ Consider relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These practices can teach you to control the stress that triggers perspiration.
▪ Change your diet. Caffeinated beverages and spicy or strong-smelling foods might make you sweat more or have stronger body odor than usual. Eliminating these foods might help.
Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis), can affect your entire body or just certain areas, particularly your palms, soles, underarms or face. The type that typically affects the hands and feet causes at least one episode a week, during waking hours.