Night Sweats

What Causes Night Sweats?

Night sweats can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose night sweats, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "night sweats" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Tuberculosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Mycobacterium Avium
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • AML Leukemia

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
occasional unexplained fevers
numb/burning/tingling extremities
frequent postprandial somnolence
swollen axillary nodes
Hodgkin's lymphoma
poor bodily coordination
chronic productive cough
fatigue definitely reduced by eating
refined sugar consumption
somewhat elevated basophil count
back-of-neck lymph node problems
major pain in cold/cool/damp weather
... and more than 60 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of night sweats:
Cause Probability Status
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma 94% Confirm
Hodgkin's Lymphoma 24% Unlikely
Histoplasmosis 15% Unlikely
Tuberculosis 1% Ruled out
Mycobacterium Avium 0% Ruled out
Rheumatoid Arthritis 0% Ruled out
Hypoglycemia 0% Ruled out
AML Leukemia 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

In the Sleep-Related Symptoms section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about night sweats:
Night Sweats. Do you sweat at night? Only include sweating that is not due to an overly warm environment or too many bed covers.
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Only slightly
→ Moderately, sheets are damp or moist
→ Profusely, sheets are soaked
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate absence of night sweats, sweating mildly at night or night sweats, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Estrogens Low

Night sweats or their daytime version, hot flashes, may be the first symptom of low estrogen.  In both cases, the profuse sweating follows a brief but intense wave of heat, usually in the face and chest.


Night sweats can occur due to associated bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.

Cancer, General

Several malignancies can lead to night sweats.

Chronic / Hidden Infection

A hidden infection, such as an abscess in the liver or spleen, can cause night sweats and fever without many other symptoms.


Various fungal infections are associated with chronic night sweats.  Histoplasmosis, an infection usually seen in the southeastern, mid-Atlantic and central United States, is one such illness.  You are less likely to have histoplasmosis or another fungal infection if you have had night sweats for more than a few months with no other symptoms.


The most common clinical presentations in the high-risk groups or ARC patients includes night sweats.  If HIV has progressed to an advanced stage, night sweats become a severe problem.


Nighttime hypoglycemia may be without symptoms or manifest itself as night sweats, unpleasant dreams or early morning headache.

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)

This symptom may be one of many associated with mercury toxicity.

Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC) Disease

Mycobacterium avium infection can cause night sweats.  A mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) diagnostic test can be done to identify the infection or rule it out.  MAC is common in women with HIV/AIDS and can be deadly if left untreated.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Night sweats, depression and lethargy can accompany this disease.


Tuberculosis (TB) is the classic cause of night sweats.  Early on the immune system typically controls the infection and few if any symptoms develop.  Then, later in life, the infection may reactivate, causing a chronic pneumonia with fever, night sweats, weight loss and cough.  Sometimes the infection involves the lungs minimally, if at all.  If you have had night sweats for more than a month or two without any other symptoms, tuberculosis would be less likely but not impossible.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
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