Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Name: Adiaphoresis

ICD-10: L74.4

Absence of sweat glands or absence of sweating.

So why is sweating so important? It helps your body regulate its temperature. More precisely, it helps your body cool off as your internal temperature rises. One of the repercussions of not being able to sweat is that you may get heat stroke or, in the case of a fever, develop a temperature so high it causes a febrile seizure. Either scenario could prove deadly. Children are especially vulnerable if unable to sweat; they have are less able to regulate internal temperatures because of their size, so being able to perspire may mean the difference between health and death.


With anhidrosis, it is not just that the sweat does not leave the body; it is not produced in the first place. Sweat glands stop working for a number of reasons, ranging from nerve damage to skin trauma. The condition also may be inherited. Either a child is born with very few sweat glands, a malady known as hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, or has a genetic disorder that makes sweat glands malfunction.

Sometimes anhidrosis develops as a side effect of medications, including those used to treat bladder control, nausea, elevated blood pressure or psychiatric conditions. Most often, though, the body once again begins to perspire after the offending medications are discontinued -- as long as there aren't any pre-existing genetic factors at play.

Certain factors make anhidrosis more likely, including:

    Age: As you grow older, your ability to sweat normally may diminish, usually because your body has more trouble regulating its temperature.

  • Certain health problems: Any medical condition that damages your autonomic nerves makes sweat gland problems more likely. Diabetes is a common condition that can cause nerve damage, but a number of other diseases can injure both nerves and sweat glands, often in a specific area, such as your legs or face.

  • Skin disorders: Many diseases that irritate or inflame the skin also affect the sweat glands. Anhidrosis can occur with a number of skin disorders, including psoriasis; exfoliative dermatitis, which is marked by severe skin scaling; heat rash; scleroderma, which causes hard, tight skin; and ichthyosis — extremely dry, scaly skin.

  • Genetic abnormalities: Mutations in certain genes can lead to disorders that affect the sweat glands.

Men and women are equally likely to be born with anhidrosis, but when it comes to developing the condition, women are more at risk as they age. Many older adults experience a decreased ability to sweat, but women seem especially likely to have problems perspiring.


Prolonged muscle cramps, dizziness and a perpetual feeling of being too hot become daily challenges -- especially for people who do not perspire over most of their bodies. Anhidrosis can occur in a single area or in scattered patches. When this happens, other body areas that do sweat will try to make up the difference. This may be bothersome, but it's not usually dangerous.

General signs and symptoms of anhidrosis may include:

    Little or no perspiration.

  • Dizziness.

  • Muscle cramps or weakness.

  • Flushing.

  • Feeling hot.

A lack of perspiration can occur:

    Over most of your body.

  • In a single area.

  • In scattered patches.


However, the prevalence of mild symptoms makes it difficult to recognize the condition until something goes really wrong, like getting overheated. That's one reason no one really knows how many people are affected; sometimes the symptoms go unnoticed -- even by physicians.

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:

    Reflex test: In a test called a QSART (quantitative sudomotor axon reflex test), a small, painless electrical current passes through four electrodes placed on your forearm, foot and leg to activate the nerves that supply your sweat glands. The volume of sweat produced by this stimulation is then measured. You may feel a mild tingling or slight burning sensation during the test.

  • Silastic sweat imprint: This test measures the distribution of perspiration by taking an imprint of drops of sweat in a rubbery material (Silastic).

  • Thermoregulatory sweat test: During this test, you're coated with a powder that changes color when you sweat. You then enter a chamber that causes your body temperature to increase to a level that makes most people perspire. Digital photos document the results.


Anhydrosis may not require treatment if it only occurs over a small part of your body. If large surfaces are affected, treatment is directed toward the underlying cause. A person with anhydrosis must avoid conditions that may lead to heat illness. Additional treatment may be required for symptoms of heat illness, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, of heatstroke.

Home care for anhidrosis include:

    Avoid excessive heat.

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Take prescribed medications as directed: Don't skip doses of your medication. This makes them less effective. Be aware of the common side effects that may be caused by your medication.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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