Many patients complain about night sweats. In this context, this is excessive sweating during sleep usually requiring the subjects to regularly change bedclothes. They may or may not also suffer from extreme perspiration when awake. Although night sweats are constantly encountered in the clinical field, comprehensive literature on the subject is not available. There is a broad variety of related causes ranging from medical such as Tuberculosis, hormonal such as menopause, as well as psychological and nutritional grounds. Night sweats are typical symptoms of pneumonia although not all cases of night sweats are associated with the disease.
Pneumonia is one of the lung infections that may result to night sweats. Bacterial pneumonia is more common in the elderly as opposed to any other demographic group. Other than night sweats, several symptoms can assist to isolate pneumonia as the problem; breathing difficulties, fever of 38.5°C or more with chills or shaking, fatigue, headache, confusion and green, yellow or bloody sputum during coughing. Conventionally, infections that result in night sweats are chronic in nature and few if any other signs may have been apparent before the individual seeks medical intervention.
Tuberculosis is a common cause of night sweats. Early TB infections are usually controlled by the immune system and dormant TB infections may not exhibit any symptoms for years. Subsequent infections however may cause chronic pneumonia characterized by fever, cough, weight loss and night sweats. Continuous night sweats for up to six weeks or more with no other TB related symptom suggests that TB infection may not be the cause. As such, emergent chronic pneumonia is more likely. If pneumonia is caused by tuberculosis, it could exhibit night sweats and unintentional weight loss as the only symptoms; although a state of confusion is common in the elderly.
Eosinophilic pneumonia or EP is a type of respiratory disease in which a specific type of white blood cell known as eosinophil clogs the lungs. Patients suffering from chronic EP experience night sweats as a universal symptom when the disease goes for long without treatment. Acute EP progresses quickly, usually revealing characteristic symptoms within one or two weeks. Chronic EP on the other hand develops much slower and patients may be misdiagnosed with asthma. When symptoms such as extreme drenching become common even when the patient is not suffering from fever, this forms the basis for diagnosis of chronic eosinophilic pneumonia, CEP.
Similarly, Mycoplasm pneumonia or walking pneumonia is a less serious community-acquired infection caused by a variety of pathogens, usually viral. Night sweats normally occur after 45 to 60 days without treatment accompanied by low energy levels and unexplained weight losses. Pneumonia can result in severe complications in elderly people due to weakened immune system, so immediate medical intervention is advised. Patients with pre-existing illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease may also experience severe forms of pneumonia.
Many people have been affected by pneumonia in the past sometimes resulting in deaths. Lack of timely diagnosis and treatment may be a result of negligence or lack of knowledge. Patients often believe that symptoms are not adequately severe to warrant treatment because they can continue with normal functioning, as in the case of walking pneumonia. Also, pneumonia-related symptoms may be confused for influenza, asthma, and bronchitis among other respiratory infections.
Extreme night sweats, or secondary hyperhidrosis occurs as a symptom of another condition or at times as a side effect of prescription. When night sweats become persistent, chronic pneumonia is inferred. Night sweats are linked with many disorders ranging from mild to serious. In order to accurately diagnose their cause, a thorough examination of the patient’s medical history and physical condition is paramount.