The Etiology of Primary Hyperhidrosis: A Systematic Review

Clin Auton Res. 2017 Dec;27(6):379-383. doi: 10.1007/s10286-017-0456-0. Epub 2017 Aug 19.


Purpose: Primary hyperhidrosis is a pathological disorder of unknown etiology, affecting 0.6-5% of the population, and causing severe functional and social handicaps. As the etiology is unknown, it is not possible to treat the root cause. Recently some differences between affected and non-affected people have been reported. The aim of this review is to summarize these new etiological data.

Methods: Search of the literature was performed in the PubMed/Medline Database and pertinent articles were retrieved and reviewed. Additional publications were obtained from the references of these articles.

Results: Some anatomical and pathophysiological characteristics (as well as enzymatic, metabolic, and neurological dysfunctions) have been observed in hyperhidrotic subjects; three main possible etiological factors predominate. A familial trait seems to exist, and genetic loci associated with hyperhidrosis have been identified. Histological differences were observed in sympathetic ganglia of hyperhidrotic subjects: the ganglia were larger and contained a higher number of ganglion cells. A higher expression of acetylcholine and alpha-7 neuronal nicotinic receptor subunit in the sympathetic ganglia of patients with hyperhidrosis has been reported.

Conclusions: Despite these accumulated data, the etiology of primary hyperhidrosis remains obscure. Nevertheless, three main lines for future research seem to be delineated: genetics, histological observations, and enzymatic studies.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Etiology; Primary Hyperhidrosis; Sympathetic System.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperhidrosis / etiology*
  • Hyperhidrosis / genetics
  • Hyperhidrosis / pathology*
  • Sympathectomy / trends