Night sweats may be defined as excessive sweating while trying to sleep at night. Commonly, causes of night sweats are due to nonserious causes. However, in combination with other symptoms, night sweats could be due to something more serious, such as blood cancers, hormonal dysfunction and a variety of infections. Teens with repeated night sweats or with additional symptoms should be examined and evaluated by a physician.
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Benign Causes of Night Sweats
Most episodes of night sweats are due to a variety of nonserious causes. Excessive heating in the room or use of too many blankets can cause sweating while trying to sleep. Eating spicy foods or exercising excessively before bed are also common cause. Some medications such as antidepressants, fever reducers, and drugs to treat diabetes can cause night sweats as a side effect. The common cold or flu may cause sweating at night. Sometimes, emotional problems, anxiety and nightmares can cause this symptom as well.
Leukemias and Lymphomas
In teenagers, night sweats may be a sign of leukemia, a cancer of the blood-producing cells of the body. Leukemias make up about 40 percent of cancers in younger teenagers. The most common type of leukemia in this age group are acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia. These tumor may also involve the brain and the testes. Symptoms of leukemias include fever, night sweats, easy bruising, fatigue, and weight loss. Lymphomas make up 15 percent of cancers in those aged 15 to 19 years. Hodgkin disease is a type of lymphoma which has peak incidence in adolescent males. It can present with fevers, night sweats, weight loss, and swelling of one or more lymph glands in the neck.
A variety of important infections can cause night sweats in teenagers. According to a study published by the "American Journal of Public Health," tuberculosis is becoming more common among those 5 to 24 years of age. Infection can cause night sweats, weight loss and a cough that sometimes contain blood. Due to changes in in behavior, teenagers can become infected with HIV, which may cause night sweats as a part of the initial infection. According to Avert, an AIDS awareness nonprofit group, the incidence of AIDS drastically increases as children enter the 15 to 19 years age group. Finally, osteomyelitis, hepatitis, and infective endocarditis are other infectious causes of night sweats in teenagers.
A variety of hormonal imbalances can cause night sweats. Night sweats frequently occur in Graves' disease, a disease which causes hyperthyroidism. According to Nelson's Pediatrics, most cases of Graves' disease occur in those who are 11 to 15 years of age and frequently affect girls. Phaeochromocytoma is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland which may cause episodic pounding heart, high blood pressure and night sweats. Approximately 10 percent of disease occurs in people between the ages of 6 and 14 years.
A number of other, more unusual diseases, can also lead to night sweats. Conditions of the nervous system such as syringomyelia, a condition of the spinal cord, or familial dysautonomia, a disorder of temperature regulation, can cause this symptom. Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may occasionally be associated with night sweats and are often associated with the rise in obesity rates seen in adolescents. Finally, autoimmune diseases such as lupus can lead to this night sweats, too. Lupus is especially common in teenage girls.