Sweating and diabetes: What you need to know

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Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body turns food into energy, involving either a lack of insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or an inability to use insulin effectively (Type 2 diabetes).

While many are familiar with the common symptoms of diabetes, such as increased thirst, frequent urination, and blurred vision, there’s another, less talked about symptom: abnormal sweating.

This article delves into the surprising connection between diabetes and abnormal sweating.

Abnormal sweating in people with diabetes can take two main forms: sweating too much (hyperhidrosis) or not sweating enough (anhidrosis).

Both can be direct or indirect results of diabetes and its impact on the body. Let’s explore how and why these sweating abnormalities occur and what they mean for those living with diabetes.

The Connection Between Diabetes and Sweating

The root of the issue lies in how diabetes affects the body’s nervous system. High blood sugar levels over a prolonged period can lead to nerve damage, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy.

This damage can affect various parts of the body, including the nerves that control sweat glands. Depending on which nerves are affected, this can lead to either excessive sweating or insufficient sweating.

Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating often occurs in specific areas such as the head, chest, or underarms, and might happen even when the person isn’t exerting themselves or when the temperature isn’t particularly warm.

This type of sweating is usually a response to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, which is a common side effect of insulin and other diabetes medications.

The body sweats more in an attempt to cool down after the sudden drop in blood sugar triggers a “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline and increasing body temperature.

Insufficient Sweating

On the other end of the spectrum, insufficient sweating (anhidrosis) can affect large areas of the body and lead to overheating, as sweating is a key mechanism through which the body cools itself down.

This condition is also a result of nerve damage caused by prolonged high blood sugar levels, which impairs the nerves’ ability to signal the sweat glands to release sweat.

The Impact and Management

Both excessive and insufficient sweating can have significant impacts on the quality of life for someone with diabetes. Excessive sweating can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, leading to social anxiety and discomfort.

Insufficient sweating can increase the risk of overheating, heat stroke, and skin infections due to dry, cracked skin.

Managing these symptoms involves controlling blood sugar levels to prevent further nerve damage. This can include medication, diet, and lifestyle changes to maintain blood sugar within a healthy range.

For those already experiencing abnormal sweating, treatments may vary from topical antiperspirants for hyperhidrosis to using moisturizers for anhidrosis to protect the skin.

Moreover, staying hydrated is crucial, especially for those who sweat excessively, to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration.

For individuals who experience insufficient sweating, avoiding high temperatures and wearing appropriate clothing can help manage the risk of overheating.


The connection between diabetes and abnormal sweating is a reminder of the complex ways in which diabetes can affect the body beyond the more commonly known symptoms.

Understanding this connection highlights the importance of managing diabetes effectively to prevent complications.

For those experiencing unusual sweating patterns, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with a healthcare provider, as they can be indicative of the need to adjust diabetes management strategies.

Through vigilant management and care, individuals with diabetes can mitigate these less-discussed symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies that eating more eggs is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and how to eat to reduce heart disease death risk if you have diabetes.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about high-protein diets linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and results showing Mediterranean diet could help reduce the diabetes risk by one-third.

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