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Face sweating a reaction to food eaten

A relative perspires heavily (face and neck area) whenever she eats. What causes this?

Excessive sweating that affects the face and neck when associated with food intake is called gustatory hyperhidrosis.

It can occur under two general sets of circumstances, called primary or secondary hyperhidrosis.

Primary gustatory hyperhidrosis occurs as an exaggerated reflex to eating certain foods, in an otherwise healthy individual – in this situation, avoiding foods that provoke sweating is usually all that is required for treatment.

If avoiding a particular food(s) is simply not an option, there are some medications that may help.

Secondary gustatory hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that occurs in response to eating, but in this instance it is being caused by another condition.

Causes of secondary hyperhidrosis – such as a previous surgery or radiation therapy to the neck or face that interrupted normal nerve fibers, diabetic neuropathy, facial zoster (shingles), or rarely lung cancer affecting the upper lung field near nerves that originate in the neck that travel to the face – are fortunately much less common than primary hyperhidrosis.

Primary gustatory hyperhidrosis usually affects both sides of the face equally, whereas secondary gustatory hyperhidrosis more commonlyaffects one side of the face (except in the case of diabetic neuropathy, which is symmetric).

The causative condition is usually evident after having a good history and physical exam with a physician.

If you or your family member have any concerns about the secondary causes, or wish to discuss treatment for the excessive sweating, then set up an appointment with your primary care doctor.

Dr. Adam Will practices internal medicine and pediatrics with Parkview Physicians Group. “Ask the Doctor” is a health column by doctors from Parkview Physicians Group. Send questions to Terri Richardson at The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802, or email Please put “Ask the Doctor” for the subject line.