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Sweat volume and ionic composition depend to a large extent upon the cytosolic free calcium level in secretory sweat cells and sodium and potassium transport in the reabsorptive sweat duct. Since essential hypertension and its treatment with antihypertensive drugs is likely to be associated with altered cellular ionic regulation, the objective of this research was to explore sweat formation and sweat parameters in hypertensive and normotensive subjects.Black and white hypertensive and normotensive subjects of both genders were studied. Essential hypertensives were on or off antihypertensive medication.Pilocarpine iontophoresis was used to induce sweat in a 5-cm2 area of the middle forearm. Sweat was analyzed for volume, sodium and potassium concentrations.Females demonstrated lower sweat volumes after pilocarpine stimulation than males. Untreated hypertensive white males exhibited a higher pilocarpine-induced sweat volume and sweat sodium excretion than normotensive white males, whilst hypertensive white males on antihypertensive medication showed a lower sweat volume and sweat sodium excretion than both normotensive white males and untreated essential hypertensive white males. Although untreated hypertensive white females did not show significant alterations in sweat parameters, treated hypertensive white females exhibited lower sweat volume and sweat sodium excretion than both the normotensive and untreated essential hypertensive white females. These hypertension and drug related alterations were not present in hypertensive black males and females.The results are consistent with the heterogeneous nature of essential hypertension and the diversity of the response to antihypertensive therapy. They suggest that the effect of antihypertensive medication on sweat formation is mediated through cytosolic free calcium.