More is Possible, 25.03.2024

Is there a relationship between spinal cord injury and sweating? The spinal cord serves as the pathway for communication between the brain and the body. However, when a spinal cord injury occurs, this communication is disrupted, potentially affecting various bodily functions, including sweating. This article will explore why individuals with spinal cord injuries may experience excessive sweating and how to effectively manage it.

Spinal Cord Injury and Sweating

Sweating is the body's natural way of regulating temperature. However, individuals with spinal cord injuries may experience excessive sweating, known as hyperhidrosis, which goes beyond the body's normal thermoregulation needs. Hyperhidrosis can occur independently or as a symptom of autonomic dysreflexia.

Autonomic dysreflexia is a condition that can arise after a spinal cord injury at the level of T6 or higher, characterized by a sudden increase in blood pressure when stimuli below the level of injury occur. Symptoms may include increased sweating, flushed skin, feelings of panic or anxiety, chest tightness, and headaches. Typically, individuals experience minimal to no sweating below the level of injury and excessive sweating above it.

The sweat glands are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which is regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain. Due to the interruption of messages from the brain to areas below the level of injury, increased sweat secretion occurs above the level of injury. However, in rare cases, individuals may sweat exclusively below the level of injury.

Managing Excessive Sweating After Spinal Cord Injury

While excessive sweating may not be life-threatening, unmanaged hyperhidrosis can significantly impact an individual's quality of life after a spinal cord injury. Excess moisture can lead to skin irritations such as rashes, blisters, and pressure sores, as well as inconveniences like frequent clothing changes, bedding washing, and constant drying off.

Furthermore, hyperhidrosis can contribute to dehydration, as the body loses water faster than it can replenish it. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure adequate hydration by drinking enough water throughout the day.

Various treatments are available to manage excessive sweating after a spinal cord injury. These include:

  • Identifying and removing triggers for autonomic dysreflexia
  • Iontophoresis, which temporarily reduces sweat secretion by using low-voltage electrical currents
  • Botox injections to block nerve impulses to the sweat glands temporarily
  • Medications such as topical creams, antiperspirants, or anticholinergics to reduce sweat secretions
  • Surgery, such as sympathectomy, as a last resort if other treatments are ineffective
  • Staying hydrated by drinking enough water

Depending on the severity of the spinal cord injury, some interventions may be more suitable than others. It's essential to consult with a doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

Understanding the causes and effects of increased sweating after a spinal cord injury can empower individuals to seek effective management strategies. If you're experiencing excessive sweating, we recommend discussing treatment options with your doctor to improve your quality of life.


Citation Source Information

[1] Medically reviewed by Andrew Tran PT, DPT, NCS, CSCS — written by Flint Rehab. Last updated on January 21, 2021 // https://www.flintrehab.com/spinal-cord-injury-and-sweating/