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What Is Gustatory Hyperhidrosis?

By Maggie J. Hall
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Individuals suffering from gustatory hyperhidrosis experience profuse sweating from the scalp, face and neck. Gustatory hyperhidrosis symptoms appear when the salivary or olfactory glands become stimulated. The embarrassing facial sweating may occur secondary to diabetes, hormone imbalance, medication, or nerve damaging surgery. The condition generally arises when miscommunication occurs between nerves that innervate the sweat glands. Treatment for hyperhidrosis depends on the cause.

When gustatory sweating begins, the affected individual may literally drip with sweat. Damage to the auriculotemporal nerve, which passes through the parotid gland in the neck, typically produces gustatory hyperhidrosis. Parasympathetic or sympathetic nerves then innervate sweat glands that usually respond to eating or drinking but that also may react to a stressful fight or flight situation.

The condition may be hereditary but usually has a physiological cause. Individuals with advanced diabetes and who have been diagnosed with neuropathy may experience the disorder. The condition is also common among women who are experiencing the hormone fluctuations associated with menopause. Under these circumstances, the hyperhidrosis response may or may not be food related.

Patients who have sustained nerve damage following facial or thoracic surgery can also develop gustatory hyperhidrosis. Traumatic injuries can induce nerves to regenerate improperly. Nerve damage from surgery or trauma usually only causes symptoms on the side of the head where the damage occurred.

Sour and spicy foods most frequently elicit the excessive sweating. Alcohol, chocolate, and caffeinated beverages are also on the list of contributing food items. Some patients experience gustatory hyperhidrosis simply from the aroma of certain foods. Unusually warm climates or foods that are high in temperature might also cause a response.

When medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) contribute to the condition, a change in treatment may solve the problem. Hormone replacement therapy may eliminate gustatory hyperhidrosis in women experiencing menopause. Some patients might try topical anticholinergic medications or aluminum chloride to minimize reactions. Rare side effects associated with topical anticholinergic medications include dry mucus membranes, sore throat, or a mild headache. Aluminum chloride may cause skin irritation.

Oral anticholinergic medications typically inhibit a sympathetic response and may curb symptoms but generally have more adverse effects. Health care providers might also suggest botulinum toxin injections. Medical grade botox inhibits the chemical signals traveling from one nerve to another, thus reducing the symptoms associated with gustatory hyperhidrosis. The last resort for treatment involves endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), which involves severing branches of the sympathetic nerve.

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