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Night Sweats: Causes and Treatment, with Helpful Videos

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Do you ever have night sweats? I do. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night sweating, even in the winter. And we keep our house cold, so I don’t think it’s because I’m overheating. It’s a strange feeling and difficult to explain. It’s like I’m hot and cold at the same time. I’m perspiring, yet I’m cold. I can be freezing when I first climb into bed, but oftentimes, I'm burning up within just a minute or two. I find myself kicking off all the covers - even the top sheet.

I remember my mom talking about her similar experiences. She had severe night sweats, when she would wake up soaking wet, with her pajamas and her sheets drenched. Mine aren’t that bad, but they are uncomfortable. Of course, being the research freak that I am, I’ve been “studying up” on this pesky night sweat thing!

Night sweats are very common. According to Webmd, one study of 2,267 patients visiting their primary care provider revealed that 41% complained of experiencing at least one night sweat during the previous month.

Night sweats causes/night sweats treatment

What causes night sweats? Many things. A night sweat could be caused by hormonal changes, medications, alcoholism, or diseases and conditions. Sometimes a night sweat could be caused by something as simple as piling on too much cover or from having a nightmare.

If the night sweats are caused by a medical condition, your doctor will not try to cure the night sweat itself. Instead, he will seek to discover the underlying condition that is causing the night sweat. While they might be uncomfortable, night sweats themselves are not dangerous, but they might be a symptom of a serious illness.

If you’re having night sweats, especially profuse night sweats, it’s important to find out why. Don’t be unduly alarmed, however. There’s a very good chance that your night sweat is not caused by a serious illness!


Night sweats and hot flashes

For women over forty, the major cause of night sweats is a change in hormones associated with perimenopause and menopause. Night sweats and hot flashes go hand in hand. As women age, their bodies start to produce less progesterone and estrogen. This drop in hormone can trigger hot flashes, but doctors aren’t completely sure why. Some studies indicate that both hormones play a role in regulating body temperature. When these hormone levels decline, a sudden drop in body temperature can occur, causing an overall intense hot feeling and sweating.

If hormonal problems are causing your night sweats, your doctor might prescribe hormone therapy drugs. Consuming certain foods that contain phytoestrogens might also help with the symptoms of menopause. These include soy products like tofu, miso, soymilk, and tempeh.

Medications

Certain medications can cause night sweats. Among the chief culprits are antidepressants – both monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Prescription drugs such as Nardil, Parnate, Lexapro, Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, Luvox, Prozac, and Cymbalta can all cause night sweats.

How can antidepressants cause a night sweat? Such drugs alter the chemicals in your brain and can do the same thing to your hypothalamus. This, in turn, can cause your body temperature to drop, which induces the sweating.

Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can cause night sweats for the same reason. These fever reducers signal the hypothalamus to lower the body temperature, and sweating is one of the quickest ways to accomplish the task.

Neurologic conditions

Neurological conditions can also cause night sweats. These include strokes, autonomic neuropathy, and Parkinson’s disease.

A stroke results when the brain is not receiving enough oxygen, causing brain cells to die. It’s like a heart attack to the brain, in other words. Most strokes are caused by blocked or narrowed arteries leading to or away from the brain. These are called ischemic strokes.

The other type of strokes, hemorrhagic strokes, are not nearly as common. They occur when a ruptured blood vessel in the brain leaks blood into the brain.

Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, abnormal heart rhythm, arterial plaque, and genetic abnormalities of the blood vessels.

Another neurological condition that might cause night sweats is autonomic neuropathy. This is a peripheral neuropathy that affects several body functions, including perspiration. In the case of night sweats, damaged nerves send faulty signals to the sweat glands, often causing them to work overtime. The damage to the nerves can be caused by diabetes, multiple system atrophy, trauma to the nerves, amyloidosis, alcoholism, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, and Crohns disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition of the central nervous system. Its symptoms include night sweats, tremors, rigid muscles, imbalance and unsteadiness, changes in speech, confusion, memory loss, and a shuffling walk. The disease is treated with surgery, physical therapy, and a wide range of drugs.

Infections

Several infections are known to cause night sweats. The most likely include tuberculosis, endocarditis, brucellosis, myelofibrosis, osteomyelitis, and pyogenic abscesses.

Tuberculosis is a serious infection of the lungs that can be classified as latent or active. With a latent case of TB, your body contains the bacterium, but your immune system is controlling it, so you don’t have symptoms. With active TB, you can be very sick, with night sweats, chills, fever, weight loss, exhaustion, breathing difficulties, and coughing up blood.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner heart lining. It occurs when bacteria spread from other locations in the body to the heart. Endocarditis is rare among individuals with healthy hearts. It is more often seen in people with damaged or artificial valves. Symptoms include night sweats, chills, coughing, shortness of breath, swelling of the extremities, weight loss, joint and muscle aches, and small purple spots on the skin, in the mouth, or in the eye. The condition is treated with antibiotics or surgery.

Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that large affects cattle. It can spread to humans via contaminated dairy products. Symptoms include night sweats, high fever, chills, persistent headache, fatigue, and pain in the joints and muscles. Brucellosis is treated with antibiotics.

Myelofibrosis is a disorder of the bone marrow that affects the production of blood cells. Symptoms include night sweats, anemia, weakness, bruising, paleness, fever, pain in the upper left quadrant, shortness of breath, bone pain, and excessive bleeding. This condition is treated with blood transfusions, slpenectomy, radiation, stem cell transplant, androgen therapy, and thalidomide and steroids.

Osteomyelitis is a serious infection of the bone. The bones most often affected are the long bones of the arms and legs, as well as the pelvis, hip, and spine. Symptoms include night sweats, fever, bone pain, and fatigue. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. The infection is treated with antibiotics. Surgery is sometimes required.

Pyogenic abscesses are pockets of infection found in an organ – most often the liver. They’re treated by draining the abscess and prescribing antibiotics.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine – a hormone that increases the metabolism, and it can cause night sweats. When the metabolism is increased, the bodily functions go into overdrive. Your heart beats faster, you experience nervousness and excitability, and you sweat more.

If you’re diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, the condition can often be controlled with medication. In extreme cases, part of the thyroid might be surgically removed.

Cancer

Several types of cancers can cause night sweats. The major ones include Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, carcinoid syndrome, pheochromocytoma.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or Hodgkin’s disease, affects the lymph and immune system. Symptoms include night sweats, fatigue, fever, chills, coughing, weight loss, breathing difficulties, itching, chest pain, and swelling of the lymph glands that does not cause pain. Chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant, and stem cell transplant ate all used to treat and arrest this cancer.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is much more prevalent that is Hodgkin’s disease, yet they are very similar. The main difference is that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma forms white blood cell tumors. The symptoms of these two cancers are virtually the same. The treatments and drugs used to fight the disease are also very similar, except that with indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, treatment might not be needed for several years.

Leukemia usually starts in the white bloods cells and attacks both the lymph system and the bone marrow. In addition to excessive night sweats, leukemia can cause swollen lymph glands, excessive bleeding, bone pain, bruising, fever, chills, weight loss, and frequent infections like colds. Leukemia is treated with drugs, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant, and stem cell transplant.

When a rare carcinoid tumor spreads harmful chemicals into the bloodstream, the condition is referred to as carcinoid syndrome. Symptoms may not present until the disease has reached an advanced stage. Once it does, the patient might experience night sweats, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, skin lesions, flushing, and shortness of breath. The disease is treated with interferon, chemotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, Octreotide injections, and hepatic artery emolization, a procedure that cuts off the tumor’s blood supply.

Pheochromocytoma is a rare condition in which a tumor forms inside one of the two adrenal glands. Even though these tumors are usually benign, they can have a deadly impact. They can affect the adrenal glands’ ability to control heart rate, blood pressure, and the production of stress hormones. Symptoms of pheochromocytoma include severe night sweats, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, extreme anxiety, abdominal pain, headaches, and weight loss. The condition is treated with drugs and surgery.

AIDS/HIV

AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, which destroys the immune system. When the viral infection reaches an advanced stage, it’s referred to as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS makes the body susceptible to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cancers. Early signs of AIDS include excessive night sweats, fever, sore throat, headache, oral lesions, and swollen glands. Later, the patient may experience weight loss, a persistent cough, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. AIDS is treated with a wide range of drugs.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia means low levels of blood glucose. Rather than a condition in and of itself, it’s usually a symptom of an underlying problem. The most likely culprit is diabetes, but it can also be caused by other conditions, including a pancreatic tumor. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include night sweats, confusion, blurred vision, anxiety, shaking, and heart palpitations. Treatments might include consuming sugar, receiving intravenous glucose, or getting an injection of glucagon. If the hypoglycemia is caused by a pancreatic tumor, surgery is required to remove the tumor.

Idiopathic hyperhidrosis

Idiopathic hyperhidrosis is the name for chronic excessive sweating for no apparent reason. Any part of the body can be affected at any time, even during cold weather. This condition is treated with Botox injections, iontophoresis, and in severe cases, surgery.

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night-sweats-causes-and-treatment

Menopause, night sweats and hot flashes

Treatment for night sweats

Comments

christryon on July 07, 2012:

Ground flaxseed has helped me considerably as has regular exercise.

Good article!

nycinbox on March 20, 2012:

Thank you for this wonderful and informative post. I have severe night sweats and my dr. cannot seem to find the cause, yet this article sheds light on some things she has not yet explored. I will be bringing it to her attention.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 31, 2010:

Ardyss, thanks so much for reading!

Ardyss Life on July 29, 2010:

Wow looks like you have done a lot of research. Thanks for sharing and I learned some new things!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 02, 2010:

Edguider, I'm glad you found it helpful!

edguider on June 29, 2010:

My wife gets these night sweets all the time, already printed this hub for her

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 23, 2010:

Many thanks, Granny!

Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on May 23, 2010:

Wow, habee, great hub. Lots of information. I will bookmark. and rate up.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 08, 2010:

Thanks so much for visiting, Levive!

Levive Green on May 08, 2010:

THanks for the research, very thorough, very informative. Well written, people need to hear more of this.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 25, 2010:

you are so right, Hanna! Everyone needs to discover the CAUSE of the night sweats!

HealthyHanna from Utah on March 24, 2010:

I hate night sweats! One of the hardest things is determining what they are caused from. Most everyone wants to blame it on harmones and look no further. And, in themselves, they wont kill you, so why bother about them. Well, from one who has them, it would be good to know how to deal with them, because there is a reason.

Thanks for your compiling this information. It is nice to have it all in one place.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 21, 2010:

Thanks, Ardyss! I'll check it out!

Ardyss Nocal on January 21, 2010:

This is a great article. kinda funny initially but good. My wife uses Ardyss Nocal for heer hot flashes and it gives her a libido boost too.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 18, 2010:

Thanks, Wife! I was surprised to learn how many people have night sweats!

Wife Who Saves on January 18, 2010:

This is a very informative hub on night sweats. I never knew there could be so many reasons. I bookmarked this hub for future reference.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Lily, I'm so glad you're doing better! You're an inspiration!

Lily Rose from A Coast on January 17, 2010:

When I was going through chemo I had awful night sweats AND hotflashes all day long. Then I had to have my ovaries removed which sent me into early menopause and again I had to deal with the night sweats and hot flashes. It's been about 6 months since I had my ovaries removed and it only recently started going away. I get an occasional hot flash, but they are pretty minor now. Thank goodness (knock on wood)!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Probably so, Cindy. I think that's the biggest culprit for women.

Cindy Vine from Cape Town on January 17, 2010:

I've been told my night sweats are the onset of menopause

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Laurel, I've been lucky, too. My night sweats are nothing like Mom's were.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Sorry, Ethel. Maybe the above video will help with its tips!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Thanks, HH! I learned A LOT in the process!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Hi, Cheri! Thanks for the yoga tip!

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on January 17, 2010:

You know, habee, I wonder if menopausal night sweats skip generations. My mother also would have to wring out her sheets during the night during this time in her life-I blew threw unscathed.

I had no idea there were so many other potential causes. Thanks for all the info.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on January 17, 2010:

Since treatment my thyroid condition is now hypo. However with age I have those menopausal sweats. What fun. I'm in the bed, I'm out the bed ad infinitum.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 17, 2010:

Hello, habee, and congratulation for having done such a good research. Thank you for a very informative hub.

Cheri Schultz from Midwest on January 17, 2010:

Thank you for a great article - Menopause can drive me crazy with these night sweats. I take the covers off, I put the covers on... There is no pleasing me :):) and I wake up soaked. I practice yoga three times a week and that has also helped my hot flashes and night sweats. Thanks again for an informative article!!!

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