What causes clammy skin?

The most frequent causes of clammy skin are anxiety; hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); severe pain; and other conditions that cause low blood-oxygen levels. Many causes of clammy skin are serious or life threatening.

Serious or life-threatening causes of clammy skin

In some cases, clammy skin may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These conditions include:

  • Drug overdose
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heavy or internal bleeding
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolus (blockage of an artery in the lung due to a blood clot)

Other causes of clammy skin

Clammy skin can also be caused by other potentially serious conditions including:

  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Infections
  • Severe pain

Questions for diagnosing the cause of clammy skin

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your clammy skin including:

  • When did you first notice you had clammy skin?
  • Are you having any 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?

What are the potential complications of clammy skin?

Because clammy skin can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Cardiogenic shock (shock caused by heart damage and ineffective heart function)
  • Hypovolemic shock (from low blood volumes)
  • Septic shock (from widespread infection)


Skin - clammy. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003216.htm. Accessed May 21, 2011.

Shock. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000039.htm. Accessed May 21, 2011.


What is clammy skin?

Clammy skin occurs when your skin turns cooler than normal and is moist, despite a cooler surface temperature. Clammy skin is often pale.... Read more about clammy skinintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with clammy skin?

Clammy skin may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect blood oxygen levels may also involve other body systems.... Read more about clammy skinsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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