This question came to mind after reading this article. The article speaks of inducing sweating to determine, by a roundabout fashion, the amount of salt therein. I'm no medic but I find myself wondering whether sweat may be used directly to measure any other chemicals secreted by the body.

For instance:

If one's kidney/liver were to suffer some malady would the body attempt to discharge some additional waste through one's sweat

What chemicals may be detected by analysing sweat?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I recently watched a documentary in which a team demonstrated a type of sensor that would compute blood sugar levels from sweat, which was pretty neat. I guess a lot of stuff is leaked out that way. $\endgroup$
    – Polynomial
    Mar 4, 2013 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Polynomial: Just the kind of answer I hoped to have. If you would post it as an answer I can atleast acknowledge the effort. $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Mar 5, 2013 at 3:59

2 Answers 2


Cystic fibrosis diagnosis. Here is a link to a paper describing the use of β-adrenergic sweat secretion as a diagnostic test for cystic fibrosis.

Anti-cancer therapy and its effectiveness. This report seeks to determine the levels of the anti-cancer drug sunitinib and its active metabolite N-desethylsunitinib in sweat.

I'll add others later.

Here's a 2004 study looking at a particularly unpleasant sulfury compound produced by bacteria in contact with sweat. It's interesting that the enantiomer of the malodorous compound had a grapefruit-like smell.

This paper puts forth the idea that sweat, which contains lactate, lactic acid, urea (of course) and amino acids, can be used in forensics.


I can't provide any real technical details, but I recently watched a documentary in which a team demonstrated a new type of blood sugar sensor that could be simply swabbed against sweat. They were trialling it as a non-invasive option that paramedics could carry, for use on unconscious patients as a means of checking for signs of diabetic shock. They mentioned that it only required a minimal sample; a swab of the palm of the hand was sufficient to gain a decent reading.

I'm unsure as to the mechanism of the device - it could well have been direct measurements of sugars or sugar by-products in the sweat, or it could have been looking for other chemicals associated with abnormal blood sugar levels.

  • $\begingroup$ What was the documentary called? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Apr 3, 2017 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ I honestly can't remember. I believe it was a BBC Horizon episode, but I may be wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Polynomial
    Apr 3, 2017 at 13:01

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