Why would someone have a constantly wet head?

12 August 2012

Question

I've got a friend and her hair absolutely amazes me. I keep getting a hair drier, I will dry her hair bone dry. Within 15 minutes, all the perspiration will be pouring down her forehead, down in the back of her neck, her clothes get wet. I asked my doctor why her hair, winter and summer is always soaking wet? She perspires from the head. He didn’t know, so could I ask you?

Answer

Chris - Wow! So, do any other bits of her become excessively sweaty or is it just her hair?

Kathleen - No, just normal everywhere else, but for some reason, she perspires on her hair, all the time. I've been with her last year when it was snowing and I said, "Would you do me a favour, would you just take off your hat for a few minutes?" and started to ice up, and I just don't understand why?

Chris - No, it's a bit of a mystery, but it's a very interesting question, Kathleen. I can only think this is a manifestation of a condition called hyperhidrosis: Hyper meaning "a lot of", hidrosis meaning "water" or "sweat". Normally, this affects the hands. People often say they get very excessively sweaty hands and this is actually a recognised medical condition.

It can be treated, and one way in which it's treated is to interrupt the nerve supply that controls sweat glands in the skin in the neck. There's something called the sympathetic chain which is a nerve pathway which carries sympathetic nerve that drives sweating up the body, and they go out from the top of the neck down the arms. If doctors make a tiny lesion in the sympathetic chain there, it can stop the sweating in their hands.

I haven't heard of it happening in the head though and there are other reasons why people sometimes do sweat excessively, so it might be worth our while getting things checked out just in case, and having various check-up tests done just to make sure that nothing is being missed.

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