What does sweating like a banshee mean

Night sweats

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Written by Wiebke Posmyk • Medical editor
Checked by Dr. med. Frauke Gehring • General practitioner

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Night sweats are not only uncomfortable, they can also indicate an illness. Long-term night sweats should therefore always be clarified. Read about the causes of night sweats and how they can be treated.

Doctors speak of night sweats when a person sweats excessively at night. Often the person concerned wakes up bathed in sweat. Pajamas and sheets can be so soaked that they need to be changed. On the other hand, skin that is only slightly damp is not uncommon and should not be viewed as night sweats.

A strong sweat production must not necessarily pathological be. In midsummer temperatures, during a visit to the sauna or while exercising, it is not only normal, but even importantthat people sweat: The moisture film on the skin cools and protects the body from overheating.

Night sweats: possible causes

Alsonocturnal Sweating is often harmless. Sometimes, however, there is a disease behind it. Almost everyone knows, for example, night sweats as a side effect of a severe cold or flu. With such infections, those affected usually sweatalso during the day increased. In addition, there are diseases in which sweating occurs predominantly or exclusively at night.

Excessive sweating = hyperhidrosis

Medical professionals refer to excessive sweating asHyperhidrosis or hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis can be a symptom of various diseases or it can represent an independent clinical picture without any further recognizable cause.

Night sweats: causes

Night sweats can have many causes. It can simply be a natural reaction to an ambient temperature that is too high - for example because the room temperature in the bedroom is too high, the bedding is too thick or the nightwear is too warm.

Other harmless causes include diet and lifestyle habits: spicy spices and large meals before bed can promote night sweats, as can alcohol and drugs. Excessive stress or nightmares can also increase sweat production.

Sometimes, however, a mental or physical illness is also responsible for night sweats, which must be treated accordingly.

Overview: possible pathological causesfrom night sweats

  • acute and chronic infectious diseases (e.g. flu, glandular fever, tuberculosis, infections in the context of AIDS, hepatitis, inflammation of the inner lining of the heart, malaria, borreliosis
  • Autoimmune diseases such as collagenosis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer (e.g., leukemia, lymphomas such as Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas)
  • neurological diseases (e.g. Parkinson's disease, epilepsy)
  • hormonal disorders (e.g. hyperthyroidism) or changes that occur during menopause or early pregnancy
  • Metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes mellitus)
  • mental illness (e.g. anxiety disorders)
  • Sleep apnea

In addition, night sweats can be caused bycertain drugs to be triggered. These include, for example

Withdrawal from drugs can also lead to night sweats.

Sometimes you can't find any causes for the night sweats. Doctors then speak ofidiopathic night sweats. In any case, have long-lasting night sweats clarified by a doctor.

B symptoms: night sweats, fever, and weight loss

In the context of certain illnesses, night sweats often occur together with fever and weight loss.

The combination of night sweats, weight loss and fever is known as B symptoms or B symptoms (also: accompanying symptoms).

The B symptoms are accompanying symptoms that occur in severe infectious diseases such as tuberculosis or an HIV infection or indicate a malignant disease such as lymphatic cancer or leukemiacan.

But: the B symptomsdoes not replace a diagnosis. Just because a person has a fever, weight loss, and night sweats at the same time does not necessarily mean that they are actually seriously ill.

Night sweats: diagnosis

Night sweats can be harmless. Nevertheless, a diagnosis by a doctor is recommended if night sweating persists for a long period of time.

For example, before the physical exam, the doctor will want to know

  • since when the night sweats exist,
  • how often night sweats occur (e.g. every night, several times a month ...) and
  • how bad the night sweats are.

He will also ask about other complaints, such as after

If necessary, the doctor will also want to know whether the patient is taking certain medications or has certain pre-existing conditions.

After the interview, the doctor examines the patient thoroughly. For example, he can listen to the lungs or feel for enlarged lymph nodes. Blood tests can provide more information about the possible cause. Depending on which illness the doctor suspects, further examinations may be necessary (e.g. ultrasound examination, x-rays).

Night sweats: treatment

If night sweats are heavy or persistent, it is important to find the cause and eliminate it.

Since night sweats can be caused by very different circumstances or illnesses, the therapy is very different from case to case. Some examples:

  • If a bacterial infection is responsible for night sweats, treatment with antibiotics may be necessary.
  • If a drug triggers sweating, the doctor will consider discontinuing the drug or replacing it with another drug.
  • If night sweating is of a psychological nature, psychotherapy may be useful.

Tips against night sweats without physical causes

If the doctor has not found a recognizable cause for your night sweats, a few general measures may help:

  • Stop eating large meals just before bed.
  • Do not eat spicy foods.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol.
  • Thoroughly ventilate your bedroom in the evening.

Online information from the German Cancer Society (DKG): www.krebsgesellschaft.de (accessed on: 7.5.2019)

Herold, G .: Internal Medicine. Self-published, Cologne 2019

Night sweats. Online information from the Pschyrembel: www.pschyrembel.de (as of May 2017)

Füeßl, H., Middeke, M .: Dual series of anamnesis and clinical examination. Thieme, Stuttgart 2014

Battegay, E .: Siegenthaler's differential diagnosis. Thieme, Stuttgart 2013

ICD-10 Diagnostic Key:

You can find the appropriate ICD-10 code for "Night sweats (night sweats)" here:

Last content check:14.04.2020
Last change: 14.04.2020