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What is Gustatory Sweating?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gustatory sweating is a condition resulting from trauma or surgical removal of the parotid gland. The parotid gland is the largest saliva-producing structure in the mouth. Saliva is essential in the digestive process because it facilitates easier chewing and swallowing. Individuals suffering from gustatory sweating often find themselves sweating in certain areas of the face with thoughts of ingesting mouth-watering foods. Normally, gustatory sweating occurs after ingestion of hot and spicy foods.

A person who has undergone parotidectomy is generally at high risk for developing Frey syndrome. Parotidectomy is the surgical removal of the parotid gland due to the presence of a malignant tumor. In Frey syndrome, sweating occurs on one side of the person's face and head. Aside from Frey syndrome, gustatory sweating is also seen as a rare complication in individuals with diabetes mellitus. Their sweating, however, includes both sides of the face.

The nerves that surround the parotid gland monitor and control the amount and rate of saliva production. During parotidectomy, these nerves are usually cut off. The problem occurs, however, when these nerves grow back and begin to attach themselves to the sweat glands scattered around the different regions of the face. When a person returns to eating mouth-watering foods, the stimulus that is usually directed for the nerves to start producing saliva, will begin to tell the sweat glands to produce more sweat. This explains how tasting or just the thought and sight of certain foods can induce sweating in a person with Frey syndrome.

Signs and symptoms associated with gustatory sweating could become bothersome, especially when the sweating becomes so profuse that sweat starts to literally soak one’s face. Excessive amounts of sweat may form on the patient’s forehead, around the area of the lips, or in the chest area when a stimulus is presented. For patients who had undergone parotidectomy and have sustained damage to the auriculotemporal nerve, the nerve that enables the side of the head to feel, facial flushing may also be evident. The main cause for concern in patients who have gustatory sweating is the cosmetic consequences of their problem, especially when they are at work, or when eating out in public places.

Treatment and management of gustatory sweating includes taking medications, applying creams, and undergoing counseling. Another option is to have another surgical operation. Some patients find that using anti-perspirants on their skin can also help.

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Discussion Comments

By anon337356 — On Jun 04, 2013

I have had surgery to remove tumours in the same area twice. Once in Nov 2010 and again last September. However, I am only just starting to feel the affects of the gustatory sweating. At the moment, it's quite surreal and I hide it well, but I can see how it could potentially become a problem for me (and others going through it) in the future.

By anon193512 — On Jul 05, 2011

Frey syndrome is not associated with heat, just eating. And it's not after eating, but during it. It's usually tolerated fairly well, with small beads forming on the affected area that quickly respond to dabbing with a tablecloth, etc. Often the skin over the area can feel a little full from the activation of the sweat glands too.

You have a parotid gland on each side of your face extending from in front of your ear out on to the cheek and under your earlobe over the back of your mandible.

By JimmyT — On Jun 27, 2011

Wow, this sounds really awful. I mean, it's hard enough to have to deal with that on a physical level, but I can imagine that it would be very difficult on a social level too.

I guess that's where the counseling comes in. I wonder, what happens when a person with this condition is in a very stressful situation, or they get very hot. Do they sweat more than other people in circumstances like that, or is it strictly related to eating?

By kentuckycat — On Jun 25, 2011

It's very odd that someone can sweat after eating, but the fact that it only happens on one side of the face is also interesting. Is the parotid gland only on one side of the face, or do we have more than one?

By anon160590 — On Mar 16, 2011

the article really helped me a lot. It cleared up the concept for me.

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