What Can Cause Clammy Skin? How to Stop It
This article explains causes and treatment options for clammy skin. This article also gives symptoms that may occur alongside clammy skin and lists potential complications.
Probably the most common reason for having clammy skin is being overheated, or too hot. When you are too hot, your body releases sweat through sweat glands. As the sweat evaporates, the body cools down. This can result in clammy skin that feels cold to the touch even if you are too hot.
Stress is a common cause of clammy skin. In response to stress, your body releases norepinephrine, which activates sweat glands called the apocrine sweat glands. The resulting sweating causes clammy skin. The same is true for clammy skin due to:
- sexual stimulation
If you have a fever, you may experience clammy skin or excessive sweating. Other fever symptoms include:
- feeling warm to the touch
- looking flushed in the face
- having eyes that appear “glassy”
- experiencing chills
You will usually notice an improvement in your fever as your body heals from the infection. However, if fever persists or worsens, seek medical advice.
- breathlessness at rest
- losing consciousness
- blue or pale skin
- chest pain or pressure for more than 10 minutes
- feeling confused
- not passing enough urine
- noticing blood as you cough
In this case, seek emergency medical attention.
- feeling hungry
- feeling drowsy or confused
- feeling weak or faint
- suddenly losing responsiveness
If a person with low blood sugar does not receive treatment, the situation can become a medical emergency. The person should quickly consume sugary drinks or foods. Seek medical attention immediately if their condition does not improve.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition of excessive sweating. It most commonly affects the:
- palms of the hands
- soles of the feet
About 3% of people living in the United States have hyperhidrosis.
Several topical and oral treatments are available for mild to moderate cases of hyperhidrosis. These include topical aluminum chloride and oral anticholinergic medications. Injections and surgical options for more severe cases include Botox injections or surgically cutting certain nerve chains.
Some people experience hot flashes during or after menopause. Hot flashes can happen during sleeping or waking hours. They can cause clammy skin.
There are several lifestyle changes you can try before looking into medical options. These include:
- dressing in layers
- using a portable fan
- avoiding certain foods and drinks, such as:
- spicy food
- maintaining a moderate weight
- trying mindfulness, such as meditation
Having an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, can cause excessive sweating and lead to clammy skin. Hyperthyroidism increases your metabolism, which heats the skin slightly. This can make you sweat and make your skin feel moist to the touch.
Other symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
- heart palpitations
- high blood pressure
- unexplained weight loss
- weakness or fatigue
- restlessness or irritability
- difficulty sleeping
- shortness of breath
- coughing or wheezing
- unusual tiredness
- unusual loss of appetite
- high heart rate
If you or someone you are with experience signs of heart failure, seek medical care immediately.
- some cancers
- some neurological or psychiatric disorders
- some genetic predispositions
- kidney problems
- inflammatory conditions
To diagnose the cause of your clammy skin, your doctor may ask you these questions:
- When did you first notice you had clammy skin?
- Are you having trouble breathing?
- Are you now, or have you recently been, in severe pain?
- Have you been injured?
- Did you, or do you, feel faint? Confused? Anxious?
- Have you been exposed to high temperatures?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- What medications are you taking?
Your doctor may then send you for further tests.
Clammy skin may accompany other symptoms of an underlying disease, disorder, or condition. Conditions that frequently affect blood oxygen levels may also involve other body systems.
Cardiovascular symptoms that may occur along with clammy skin
Clammy skin may accompany symptoms of problems with the cardiovascular system. These symptoms include:
- cyanosis, bluish coloration of the lips, fingernails, and mucous membranes
- chest pain or pressure
- weak pulse or rapid, weak pulse
Other symptoms that may occur along with clammy skin
Clammy skin may accompany symptoms related to problems with other body systems, including:
- confusion or loss of consciousness, even for a brief moment
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- fainting or change in the level of consciousness or lethargy
- profuse sweating
- reduced urine output
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life threatening condition
In some cases, clammy skin may be a symptom of a life threatening condition. This should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, has any of these life threatening symptoms:
Clammy skin usually results from non-life-threatening causes, such as stress or a minor infection.
However, serious conditions may cause clammy skin. Not seeking treatment can result in severe complications and permanent damage, including:
- Cardiogenic shock: Heart damage and ineffective heart function cause cardiogenic shock.
- Hypovolemic shock: Loss of fluid, leading to low blood volumes, causes hypovolemic shock.
- Septic shock: Widespread infection may lead to septic shock.
Contact a doctor if you experience persistent sweating or concerning or worsening symptoms. After an underlying cause is diagnosed, follow your treatment plan to reduce the risk of potential complications.
Clammy skin occurs when your skin turns cooler than normal and is moist, despite a cooler surface temperature. It is often pale.
Adrenaline can prompt a decrease in the blood flow to peripheral areas of the body, such as the appendages and skin, in order to redirect more blood to the vital organs. This causes cool and clammy skin.
Being too hot, stress, infection, and thyroid disorders may cause clammy skin.
Clammy skin may be a symptom of a serious condition. If you notice other symptoms alongside your clammy skin, or if symptoms persistent or worsen, seek medical attention.