Excessive Sweating: When the Hypothalamus Doesn’t Cooperate

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If you have fibromyalgia, an “invisible illness”, you often experience severe symptoms that no one can see, sometimes leading to misunderstandings and causing more stressful situations. You’re most likely used to taking a more cautious approach to outdoor activities or an kind of exertion for fear of aggravating your symptoms, but if you don’t have an understanding support system of family and friends, you might find yourself surrounded by people who can’t sympathize with what’s going through inside your body. Pain and migraines are the most common invisible symptoms of fibro, but overheating is one that often gets overlooked. However, staying indoors and in the shade is not nearly enough to combat sweating and hot flashes, reactions of a faulty limbic and endocrine system.

At least 5 million adults are affected by fibromyalgia, and 3.4 percent of the sample population of the 2015 Center for Disease control study was female. Men who have fibromyalgia tend to have fewer and milder symptoms that don’t typically last as long. Scientists and medical professionals are still unsure about this phenomenon, but the link may be due to hormones and fluctuations. Like pain and tenderness, symptoms of sweating and hot flashes are usually more prevalent and severe among women, competing with menopause for the spot of most annoying non-treatable condition. The one thing we do know is that whatever mystery surrounds fibro, the symptoms of fever and sweating and other hormone-related issues originate from a deficiency in the hypothalamus.

Hypothalamus: Why is it important?

The hypothalamus is one of the most important and underrated parts of the brain currently known to man, and that’s no stretch of the imagination. This almond-shaped nucleus performs a variety of functions, including it’s most important function of linking the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, or hypophysis. The hypothalamus is a part of the limbic system—the limbic system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation and long-term memory. The limbic system being affected would explain some symptoms such as depression, “fibro fog” and moodiness of people with fibro, because emotional control and memory-making is largely based in the limbic system.

Metabolism is linked to the hypothalamus. Most people associate metabolism with simply an ability to convert food into energy more than fat, making it easier to eat more and stay thin. But it’s more complicated than that. The metabolic process is mainly the conversion of food/fuel to energy and building blocks for biomolecules such as protein, so any abnormality in the metabolic system can explain a wide range of biological changes, not limited to fatigue and weight loss. The hypothalamus is responsible for some metabolic processes and activities of the autonomic nervous system.

But as it affects people’s health, the hypothalamus’ role in the limbic system is of paramount importance. The hypothalamus produces releasing hormones, which control the release of other hormones, and they stimulate or inhibit the secretion of pituitary hormones. Between the endocrine system’s pituitary gland and the limbic system’s hypothalamus, the following processes are controlled and effected:

  • growth
  • hunger and thirst
  • fatigue and sleep
  • blood pressure
  • functions of the sex organs
  • thyroid glands
  • metabolism
  • pregnancy, childbirth and nursing
  • parenting and attachment behaviors
  • temperature regulation
  • pain relief
  • water/salt concentration (salt causes swelling)
  • circadian rhythms

Excessive sweating: How do you handle it?

Stiffness, cold and numbing feelings in your hands and feet are common symptoms of fibro, and if you have concurring symptoms of hot flashes and sweating, the results can be miserable. Women must deal with the consequences of having makeup melt off of their face, especially during hot months. There are a few known causes of excessive sweating that can be pinpointed, such as anxiety, that are all related to the nervous, limbic and endocrine system. One “treatable” cause is the possible side-effects from antidepressants—high levels of norepinephrine. But the only way to cure that cause is to cease taking the medication, a compromise that might not be worth it if the benefits outweigh the consequences.

Unfortunately, excessive sweating and hot flashes is a symptom that can negatively affect your daily living, and it’s one you either have to live with or find a way to manage. Wearing layered clothing is one simple way to make a difference in your life with fibro. Because you tend to switch between hot and cold, having the ability to remove clothing to suit your body temperature gives you some control back. Another important thing to remember is the need to stay hydrated. Water replaces the electrolytes you lose when you sweat, and without them we can become dehydrated. Loose powders and antiperspirants can keep you feeling fresh, but dress shields, absorbent sweat pads and even menstrual pads might be a better defense.



  • Karen

    I can’t do anything without profuse sweating. It really gets me down and I seem to spend all my time mopping my face and body with paper towel. I get out of the shower, dry myself and by the time I get dressed, my body and hair is wet again. I get so embarrassed when I have saturated hair and the sweat is running down my face. I am 58, have gone through menopause, so had all the hot flushes and then was okay. But a couple of years ago, the sweating started again and this time, it just hardly ever stops, much different to when it was through menopause. I have spoken to my doctor about how it really gets me down and is there anything he can suggest that could help me, but he said there isn’t anything he can do about it. I can’t imagine living this way for the rest of my life!!

    • Rosiery Nhalleen

      He might not be able to help you but you can certainly be helped. First go down to walmart or wherever and get the rx strength of deodorant its about $5-10. Your supposed to use it only on your underarms but since I don’t wear it everyday i also put it up on my forehead near my hairline and on my low back where i sweat the most. That should help immediately.
      Second go see a dermatologist. I think its a dermatologist that can help. They can do things like medications specialized deodorants, and botox injections. Botox injections help with the sweating by stopping the sweat glands or something. There’s other treatments as well I’m sure. just try googling it. There’s something that can be done somewhere.
      good luck

      • Marsha Rubinelli

        Yes! I have even taken to using Arid XXDry as a body spray when going out and stick deodorant all around my hairline and back of my neck.

      • Karen

        Hi Rosiery, I am actually in Australia, so we don’t have walmart here. I have actually sprayed deodorant on my body a couple of times to see if it helps to stop the sweating, but unfortunately nothing has helped. I have to sleep on a towel and I can feel the sweat running down my legs and trickling through my hair. I also have trouble sleeping, am constantly in pain, have migraines, have memory problem and all this on top of living with chronic back pain, after falling down stairs when I was 17. I have had a spinal fusion and laminectomy 11 years ago, which was not very successful. Thanks for your suggestions to help with sweating Rosiery. I have tried many things over the years, but unfortunately nothing has helped.

    • Marsha Rubinelli

      Same situation with me. Keep pursuing an answer because they just don’t get it. I’m the same age as you and same situation. It’s not like a hot flash. It doesn’t “flash” it goes on and on. sometimes for a couple days. My hair will be drenched and sweat runs into my eyes and down my back where it eventually soaks the back of my underwear. After a shower- exact same story. My husband will say “didn’t you just shower?” Yes and as I’m dressing sweat is running down my back and my hair won’t dry because now it’s drenched with sweat. I have heard that Oxybutynin can help with it. We need to keep pushing for help. I just went through a bout of extremely low potassium–I’m guessing it was caused by the excessive sweating. Geez, it’s as though you are a marathon runner but you are running all day and all evening every day.

      • Karen

        Hi Marsha, It is good to have someone else say they are also going through the same situation as me, but I feel so sorry for you as I know what you are going through. I can be saturated with sweat and at the same time, have freezing cold toes and feet. It really gets me down as it is just horrible living this way. I also have terrible trouble getting enough sleep because most of the time, my body just won’t shut down to sleep, like it is meant too. If only there was a cure for fibro, wouldn’t life be wonderful if there was.

        • Marsha Rubinelli

          I was sitting here at work the other day with the little fan right in front of me on the desk between my body and the keyboard. …and the tiny heater under my desk was on and I still couldn’t get my feet warm! I’ve even tried using Arid XX as a body spray and that helped a little bit. I have a horrid time sleeping too, but my doctor just added a muscle relaxant and that helped a lot! I have also started sleeping in a pillow fort! haha I put a big pillow under my knees and a small pillow with a neck pillow under my head and pillow on each side under my elbows (they hurt and wake me up and so does my hip and knee) This keeps me on my back so my back and knees and hips don’t hurt as much) There are also some really great relaxation apps that I have put on my phone and I put headphones on and listen to those and they usually put me right out. You should try a few…some are talking or “guided meditation” and some are sounds of nature…the ocean, summer night sounds, rain, a country creek…worth a shot. There is also a great group resource that has helped me with ideas and to not feel so much like a weirdo all alone with this stupid fibro. They are on Facebook– Fighting Fibromyalgia with Kim, Karen, and Andrea. Three ladies started it and have written a guidebook and the people are really helpful. Lots of practical ideas.

        • Patricia Ann Gorsin

          Just wondering if your feet get cold and sweat on the bottoms at the same time, plus the palms of my hands sweat too. How do you cope ?? You can e-mail me at [email protected] live.com, if you would please. Patti.