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Sweating or perspiration is one of the vital functions of the body. It is a natural phenomenon that helps the body to stay cool. Generally, it is considered healthy to sweat, but some people experience frequent and excessive sweating. While some of the affected people experience excessive sweating in specific parts of the body, like the palms, soles and armpits, for others, it could be felt throughout the body. In other words, excessive sweating could be localized or generalized. Excessive sweating is medically termed 'hyperhidrosis' and when this condition is experienced in head and face only, it is called 'cranial hyperhidrosis.'

Primary and Secondary Hyperhidrosis

Excessive sweating can be normal, if it is caused by factors like high atmospheric temperature. For some people, sweating could be almost persistent and profuse. This condition (excessive sweating) is called hyperhidrosis. It may affect the whole body or specific body parts like soles of feet, palms and head. Excessive head sweating is called cranial hyperhidrosis. As in case of other types (of hyperhidrosis), cranial hyperhidrosis can also be primary or secondary. The condition is categorized as primary cranial hyperhidrosis, if it is a disease in itself and is not caused by any other underlying medical condition. It could be secondary, if caused by other diseases or medical conditions.

What Causes Excessive Head Sweating

Excessive head sweating can lead to embarrassing conditions like smelly hair, which may make the scalp itchy. Otherwise too, the condition can cause utter discomfort. The affected person may also look unhygienic and unpleasant.

Causes of Primary Cranial Hyperhidrosis
If the excessive head sweating or cranial hyperhidrosis is primary, then the condition is not caused by other diseases and disorders. It is said that in most cases, primary cranial hyperhidrosis is inherited and is characterized by overactive sweat glands in the head. Those affected with this condition develop excessive head sweating at a very young age. The condition is said to be caused by malfunction of the nervous system. Though, there is no specific underlying cause for primary hyperhidrosis, the condition may be worsened with intake of caffeine, use of nicotine and consumption of certain food and drinks. In most cases, primary hyperhidrosis is found to be localized (affects specific body parts only) and secondary hyperhidrosis is generalized (affects the body in whole). However, there can be exceptions.

Causes of Secondary Cranial Hyperhidrosis
Now, you know that secondary hyperhidrosis is usually caused by underlying medical conditions. There are various diseases, disorders, physical conditions and lifestyle factors that can cause this type of head sweating. The following are some of the common causes of excessive head sweating that is classified as secondary.

Thyroid Disorders: Thyroid glands produce hormones, which are used by the body for various purposes. Variations in the amount of hormones produced by these glands can create several health problems. Deficiency of thyroid hormones is called hypothyroidism, while overproduction of these hormones is termed hyperthyroidism. One of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism is frequent and excessive sweating. An overactive thyroid can increase the internal body temperature, which may result in excessive head sweating.

Anxiety or Stress: Anxiety has a very important role to play as far as excessive head sweating is concerned. It is a known fact that many people tend to sweat more in stressful conditions. In case of some people, sweating is more concentrated on the head and is also profuse. People who have this condition claim that the symptoms are aggravated by stressful events. So, it can be said that anxiety and stress may worsen (rather than causing it) cranial hyperhidrosis, in those who are affected by the condition.

Menopause: Hot flashes during menopause is a common problem in women. Hot flashes are accompanied with intense heat in the upper body, rapid heartbeat and heavy sweating. The intensity of hot flashes and sweating varies from one woman to another, but some may experience excessive sweating on their head.

Heart Attack: Heart attack is one of the medical conditions that can cause excessive sweating, along with chest pain and other symptoms. Though, heart attacks are usually associated with generalized sweating, some may suffer excessive head sweating or cranial hyperhidrosis.

Medication: Use of certain medication is also found to be among the causes of excessive head sweating. Some pain medication, neuropsychiatric drugs and hormonal medicines are linked to secondary cranial hyperhidrosis.

Diabetes: Another medical condition that may cause excessive head sweating is diabetes. This medical condition may affect the nerves and may cause cranial hyperhidrosis. Those affected with diabetes may experience such sweating, mainly after eating or in night.

Other Causes: Apart from the above said causes, there are some other factors that can lead to excessive head sweating. Frequent skipping of meals is another cause, which results in low blood sugar and head sweating. It is also said that frequent washing of hair with certain shampoos may cause excessive head sweating in some people. The following is a list of medical conditions that may cause excessive head sweating (secondary cranial hyperhidrosis).
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Stroke, Certain Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Characinoid Syndrome
  • Tuberculosis, Cancer
  • Gout/Chronic infections
In short, excessive head sweating could be a symptom of some underlying medical condition or a disease in itself. If you have this condition, consult a doctor to rule out the possibility of any underlying disease or disorder. If the condition is secondary, excessive head sweating can be tackled by treating the underlying cause, that has to be diagnosed correctly. Even primary cranial hyperhidrosis can be controlled with some remedial measures. Treatment for this condition involves surgery of the sweat glands or Botox injections. While surgery is said to not that effective, Botox injections may cause side effects. Certain medication are also prescribed for the affected people. You may use antiperspirants for controlling the condition. Those with excessive sweating must drink water in large amounts.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.