Anhidrosis is the inability to sweat normally. While this may not sound like a serious condition, anhidrosis can be life-threatening. When you don't perspire, your body can't cool itself, which can lead to overheating and sometimes to heatstroke — a potentially fatal condition.
Anhidrosis — sometimes called hypohidrosis — can be difficult to diagnose. Mild anhidrosis often goes unrecognized, and dozens of factors can cause the condition, including skin trauma and certain diseases and medications.
Treatment of anhidrosis involves addressing the underlying cause, if one can be found.
Signs and symptoms of anhidrosis include:
A lack of perspiration can occur:
Unaffected areas may try to compensate by producing more perspiration, so it's possible to sweat profusely on one part of your body and very little or not at all on another. Anhidrosis that affects a large portion of your body prevents proper cooling, so vigorous exercise, hard physical work and hot weather can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke.
Anhidrosis can develop on its own or as one of several signs and symptoms of another disorder, such as diabetes, neuropathy or psoriasis.
When to see a doctor
Anhidrosis occurs when your sweat glands stop working, and this can happen for a number of reasons, including:
Certain factors make anhidrosis more likely, including:
Heat-related illnesses are the most serious complications of anhidrosis. Children are especially vulnerable because their core temperature rises faster than an adult's does, and they dissipate heat less efficiently. All children should be monitored closely for overheating, but extra precautions should be taken when a child has anhidrosis.
Heat-related problems include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For anhidrosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor is likely to suspect anhidrosis based on your signs and symptoms, a thorough medical history and physical exam, but you may need certain tests to confirm the diagnosis. These include:
Sometimes the cause of anhidrosis or hypohidrosis is never found.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment isn't always necessary
Treating heat-related problems
Anhidrosis itself often can't be prevented, but serious, heat-related illnesses can. To stay safe:
Last Updated: 2010-01-09
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