What Are Common Causes of Severe Night Sweats?

Dehydration, which can be caused by excessive drinking, can lead to headaches and night sweats.
A diagram of the human skin, including sweat glands.
Severe night sweats may be caused by fever associated with an underlying infection.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Severe night sweats are pronounced and people waking from this may discover soaking nightclothes and sheets or blankets. They’re often associated with the hot flashes that women get when they are in perimenopause or menopause, but this is only one of a number of common causes of severe night sweats. A variety of medical conditions, infections, and medications may also result in this symptom.

People may suffer the rare night sweat episode due to something else, like eating very spicy food. Generally, it’s best to define severe night sweats as something occurring fairly regularly or during a period of time when a specific condition could also be defined. It’s worth noting that potential severity of some common causes of night sweats means this symptom should be mentioned to doctors, unless the cause is clearly benign and transient, like several months of especially hot and humid nights.

Some medical conditions are common causes of serious night sweats. As mentioned, perimenopause and menopause are known causal factors, and women can also get hot flashes during the day. Pregnancy may occasionally cause night sweats too.

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Another medical condition called idiopathic hyperhidrosis leads to excessive sweating both night and day. Hypoglycemia or persistently low blood sugar may lead to this condition, as can hyperthyroidism or too much thyroid hormone. Some cancers, particularly lymphoma, can also produce severe nights sweats. A tumor on one of the adrenal glands, called a pheochromocytoma, is rare but may be a cause of this profuse nocturnal sweating, too.

Certain infectious viruses like the flu virus, especially when accompanied with fever, may result in night sweats. More resilient, incurable viruses like AIDs are known for causing this symptom, too. Bacterial infections that are common causes of serious night sweats include tuberculosis, or bone and heart infections, but more common bacterial infections of the lungs or throat, like pneumonia or strep throat, could produce night sweats, particularly if they present with fever.

A host of medications may be common causes of severe night sweats and many of these medications are used frequently. For example, many types of antidepressants create this condition in about 20% of people who use them, and the popular drug for erectile dysfunction, Viagra®, can have this side effect. Commonly used fever-reducers like acetaminophen and aspirin have been linked to increased night sweats incidence. Other medications that may create this problem include thyroxidine (Synthroid®), insulin, which can create low blood sugar if not carefully monitored, prednisone, prednisolone, tamoxifen, niacin, and nitroglycerin. Patients can read about possible side effects from the medicines they take to see if other drugs list this as a symptom; many medications that list flushing as an adverse effect are also capable of causing severe night sweats.

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Discuss this Article

ysmina
Post 3

@donasmrs-- I urge you to see another doctor. We all experience mild night sweats from time to time. But severe night sweats for longer periods of time are not normal.

How old are you? Could you be in perimenopause or menopause? Some women experience menopausal night sweats earlier, when they are in perimenopause. A different hormonal imbalance may also be the culprit.

If you can't find a physical cause to the sweating, it may also be psychological. Stress can cause night sweats. Do you also have nightmares?

Or have you had an infection recently? You ought to keep looking into this symptom, there must be a cause. Severe night sweats won't come on suddenly for no reason.

donasmrs
Post 2

I've been experiencing severe night sweats since the past few months. I thought it was temporary but it hasn't gone away. I had a check-up recently and nothing was found. What can I do for night sweat relief?

SteamLouis
Post 1

My sister was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Her main symptom was sweating. She was hyper too but she has always been a little hyper, so that didn't seem abnormal. It was her excessive sweating, especially at night, that made us think that something is wrong. She had to wake up several times at night to change her clothes because she was drenched in sweat. It was awful.

She is now taking medications for hyperthyroidism and is doing much better. Her night sweats have decreased.

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