Review on January 28, 2008
Night sweats are sometimes perceived as a particularly feminine complaint, since they are a common symptom of menopause. However, a report published by James Mold et al. shows that the risk for night sweats and even hot flashes increases with age even in men.
In order to study night sweats in elderly patients, the medical investigators questioned 2,767 patients, 41% of whom had had night sweats within the month. Of those patients, 23% reported night sweats alone, while 18% suffered from of daytime as well as nighttime sweating.
Although both men and women suffered from their most intense and most frequent symptoms from the ages of 41 to 55, this report focused on aged subjects in order to isolate the effects of night sweats themselves from the effects of menopause and its associated symptoms. Night sweats during menopause are usually caused by estrogen deficiency, but because both older men and postmenopausal women experience night flashes, in this older group that is less likely to be the case. In this study, 30% of patients over the age of 65 reported night sweats.
The investigators asked the subjects about the frequency and degree of strength of their night sweats, as well as to what degree the patients found them troublesome. 10.3% of questioned patients answered that they were noticeably disturbed by night sweats: 70% described night sweats as causing them some trouble, “20% a fair amount of trouble, and 10% a great deal of trouble”.
Night sweats in aged subjects were also associated with bodily and visceral pains: 97% of patients reporting night sweats also suffered from body pain (in the muscles, joints or bones), while 68% noted visceral pain (in the stomach or chest, genitals, oral pain, headache or eye pain). Fever, muscle cramps and tingling were also associated with night sweats, perhaps due to dehydration and mineral and potassium loss. Anxiety and nervousness were also associated with patients suffering from night sweats.
Although the precise causes behind the increased incidence of night sweats in the elderly have yet to be explained, the investigating team concluded that there is an increased risk for night sweats in men and women alike who are aged 60 or older.