Your armpits may not be the most glamorous part of your body, but they can tell you a lot about your health. They serve as a gateway between our arms and upper bodies, controlling our body temperature and allowing us to move with ease. Plus, they provide a home for the sweat glands that keep us cool on hot days, but did you know that there is so much information about your overall wellness that can be gleaned from them? Here are five important things that your armpits can tell you about your health:
Sweating is a natural process that helps regulate our body temperature, but if you find yourself perspiring more than usual, it could be an indication of an overly active nervous system. Hyperactivity in the neurological pathways could be caused by anything from stress to a medical condition, so it’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals. If you find yourself sweating more than normal, it may be a sign that something isn’t quite right and it’s time to consult your doctor. “Excessive sweating, known as hyperhidrosis, usually is not caused by an underlying medical condition and is caused by overactivity in the neurological pathways, but not anything to be concerned about,” says Howard Sobel, MD, a dermatologist and the founder of Sobel Skin.
“Typically, if someone has [hyperhidrosis], they know because they’re sweating a lot,” adds Lisa Koche, MD, a family practice doctor.
Swelling, itching, scaling armpits
Itchy armpits could be a sign of an infection, such as fungal or bacterial, and should not be ignored. Dr. Koche says that yeast infection can also happen under your arms. “Someone is more prone to yeast infections—of all types—if they have a lot of sugar in their diet,” she says. “If there is an overgrowth of yeast or fungus, swelling, itching, and scaling can occur under the arms and can worsen in hot weather or tight clothing,” says Dr. Sobel, adding that poor hygiene can also cause the body to grow fungus in the armpits.
Red, itchy rashes
Red, itchy rashes in the armpit area can be caused by a number of different things. It could be caused by eczema or contact dermatitis. “Eczema is commonly found in folds of the body, like armpits,” says Dr. Sobel. “This skin condition usually begins in childhood, but could definitely be a cause of a rash, especially during a flare-up.” These rashes could be an allergic reaction to an antiperspirant, soap or detergent. If you’re experiencing an itchy, red rash in your armpits after exposure to a new product, it may be an allergic reaction and it’s best to see a doctor.
Dr. Koche emphasizes that armpit odor is completely normal. However, strong odor can also be an indicator that something isn’t quite right with your health. “[Overt armpit odor] happens when sweat comes in contact with bacteria on the skin. You can smell more if you have more bacteria,” she explains. A foul smell emanating from your armpits may be a sign that you’re dehydrated and could be an indicator that your pH is off. Not drinking enough water can cause the body to become more acidic, which can lead to an unpleasant smell. Additionally, an imbalance of bacteria in your gut can also lead to bad body odor, she adds. It’s important to pay attention to any changes in your body odor and make sure to drink enough water. Taking probiotics can help restore balance to the gut flora and keep body odor at bay.