Wearable sweat-analysis device offers clues for diagnosis

By Laura Mize • Published: May 30th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

What does your sweat say about you?

If you think it doesn’t reveal much, think again. A new, wearable device can analyze skin temperature and the chemical content of sweat. As fancy as that sounds, it begs another question: Why would you want to know so much about your sweat, or someone else’s?

For some people, information about the chemical markers in sweat could provide clues about important health issues.

For example, doctors could use a sweat monitor as a less invasive way to identify drug abuse in patients or diagnose certain diseases. High-level athletes and their trainers could glean helpful information from the analysis — a potential path to improving endurance and performance.

The sweat monitor is used during extended physical activity. Plastic-based sensors on the outside of the device make contact with the skin and collect information about skin temperature and sweat content. A circuit board then analyzes information from the sensors. After data collection and analysis, the monitor transmits the information to a mobile phone equipped with a special app. In addition to temperature, the sensors deliver information about the levels of glucose, lactate, sodium and potassium in sweat.

A team from the University of California, Berkeley published the details of their invention in the journal Nature, including photos of the monitor being used as a wristband and a headband. The device also has the potential for exceptional versatility: Its monitors also could be designed to analyze other biomarkers. So if a Fitbit isn’t giving you enough information about your workouts, be patient. Tracking your morning workout may become even more detailed in the years to come.