Night sweats is a fairly commoncomplaint of patients to their doctors. When a person complains of night sweats, he/ she generally pertains to excessive sweating during the night that usually leads to people waking up from their sleep to find their night clothes and beddings drenched in sweat. Sweating during sleep is normal especially when the bedroom is strangely hot or a person is wearing too many night clothes. True night sweats are described as severe hot flashes occurring at night that are not primarily due to any of the aforementioned factors.
Night sweats are caused by a variety of causes that are usually harmless but annoying. Sometimes, they denote an underlying medical problem. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Night sweats is also called nocturnal hyperhidrosis, which literally means night-time excessive sweating.
What Causes Night Sweats?
There is a wide range of causes that can lead to night sweats. Most of these causes are harmless but uncomfortable. They are rarely a sign for a serious medical problem. The common causes of night sweats include:
- Infections: commonly caused by bacterial infections such as, tuberculosis, osteomyelitis (bone inflammation) endocarditis (heart valve inflammation) and abscesses; also caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Cancers: early symptoms for this chronic disease, especially in lymphoma
- Menopausal transition: end of menstruation and childbearing years
- Hormonal disorders: common in hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), pheochromocytoma (benign tumour in the adrenal glands) and carcinoid syndrome (secondary symptoms due to carcinoid tumours)
- Certain medications: antidepressants and other psychiatric drug; antipyretics such as, aspirin and paracetamol
- Hypoglycaemia: low blood sugar for diabetics taking oral medications and insulin
- Neurologic conditions: stroke, autonomic dysreflexia, autonomic neuropathy, etc.
- Idiopathic hyperhidrosis: of no known medical cause
What are the Other Accompanying Symptoms of Night Sweats?
Although night sweats is not a disease on its own, it usually has particular accompanying symptoms that occur with the underlying cause. These include:
- Fever (from infections and cancers)
- Chills and quivering
- Daytime hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood changes (from menopause)
- Unexplainable weight loss and fevers (from cancers)
What is the Treatment for Night Sweats?
Although night sweats are usually not caused by serious medical condition, it is important to seek medical attention identify the cause. One must be keen for signs and symptoms in order for the physician to make a proper diagnosis.
- Ensure that they are actually true night sweats and not merely caused by other factors.
- Wear light night clothes and adjust beddings to ensure that the body does not overheat. A cooler environment will limit the degree of night sweats.
- If it is caused by bacterial infections, antibiotics are usually prescribed.
- For other causes, medical treatment may be prolonged or some may be as simple as reducing medications. However, only a physician should prescribe this.
Disclaimer: This article should not be used for medical diagnosis or medical training. To learn how to identify signs and symptoms, such as night sweats,in various conditions, enrol in First Aid Courses.