Overview

Sweating and body odor are common when you exercise or you're too warm. They're also common when you're feeling nervous, anxious or stressed.

Unusual changes in sweating — either excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) or little or no perspiration (anhidrosis) — can be cause for concern. Changes in body odor also may signal a health problem.

Otherwise, lifestyle and home treatments can usually help with normal sweating and body odor.

Symptoms

Some people naturally sweat more or less than other people. Body odor also can vary from person to person. See a doctor if:

  • 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

Causes

Sweating and body odor are caused by sweat glands in your body. The two main types of sweat glands are eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. When your body temperature rises, these glands release fluids that cool your body as they evaporate.

Apocrine glands are found in areas where you have hair, such as your armpits and groin. These glands release a milky fluid when you're stressed. This fluid is odorless until it combines with bacteria on your skin.

Sept. 24, 2019
  1. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Biology of eccrine and apocrine glands. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed July 6, 2016.
  2. Perspiration. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/. Accessed July 7, 2016.
  3. Kanlayavattanakul M, et al. Body malodours and their topical treatment agents. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2011;33:298.
  4. Shirasu M, et al. The scent of disease: Volatile organic compounds of the human body related to disease and disorder. Journal of Biochemistry. 2011;150:257.
  5. Hyperhidrosis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. http://aocd.site-ym.com/?page=Hyperhidrosis. Accessed July 6, 2016.
  6. Smith CC, et al. Primary focal hyperhidrosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 6, 2016.

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