Diagnosis of excessive sweating

If you suspect that you have excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) then your next step is to speak to your GP. You may feel embarrassed about doing so but don’t be as your GP will be familiar with this condition.

Medical history

He/she will be used to treating people with hyperhidrosis and will be sympathetic to the effects this has on you and your family. He or she will deal with this with tact and understanding and a non-judgemental approach. Excessive sweating is a medical condition and not due to poor personal hygiene or a lack of care about your appearance. Your GP will ask you about your medical history to see if there is a genetic reason for your condition. Plus this is also done to see if you have an existing medical condition which may be causing excessive sweating. There is also the possibility that you have an illness or disease which you are unaware of. This is also a possible trigger for excessive sweating.

Discussion of your symptoms

Your GP will then ask you about the symptoms of your condition which includes whether you sweat during the day or night only; if your sweating affects all or parts of your body; and if you are currently taking any medication.

In regard to medication: there are some types of medication which cause excessive sweating as a side effect. All medicines have side effects which will have been explained to you by your GP but if you notice anything untoward then mention this to him/her. This applies to prescription medicines only. But if you are taking over the counter medicines then mention this to your pharmacist or your GP.

You will undergo a physical examination.

Refer for tests

The next step is to refer you for tests. Your GP will arrange for you to undergo blood and urine tests and possible referral to a dermatologist if necessary.

There are an additional couple of tests which can be performed to determine the extent of your sweating. These include:

  • Paper
  • Starch-iodine


This involves placing a piece of paper over the affected area of the body, e.g. armpits. The heavier and wetter this paper is the greater the extent of your excessive sweating.


Starch is scattered over the affected areas of the body whilst the temperature around you is increased. This is done to trigger sweating. Iodine is then brushed over this starch. If the iodine turns blue then you have excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).


The aim is for your GP to determine if you have primary hyperhidrosis or secondary hyperhidrosis.

If, after undergoing tests there is no apparent cause of your condition then you are said to have primary hyperhidrosis. But if an existing condition is the cause or some other factor such as your lifestyle, pregnancy, obesity or a particular type of medicine then you have secondary hyperhidrosis.

Find out more about in our types of excessive sweating section.

This diagnosis will be used to devise a suitable course of treatment.

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