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Hot Flashes

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Hot flashes are often experienced by women who reach the menopausal age. It is not a condition in itself, but a symptom of an underlying ailment. Let us have a look at hot flashes in detail in the following paragraphs.

What are Hot Flashes?

Hot flashes, also called as night sweats occur due to the changes in estrogen levels in the body. It is often seen during or after going through menopause. It occurs for a brief moment causing reddening , flushing of the face as well as sweating. Some women may experience many episodes of hot flashes during the day and some never experience hot flashes.

These hot flashes happen when the blood vessels under the surface of the skin start dilating to cool down. Along with this flushing, one starts sweating to help the body cool. When this episode occurs at night, disrupting sleep, it is called as night sweats.

Causes of Hot Flashes

What leads to hot flashes is still a mystery. However, doctors think it is related to the hypothalamus that regulates body temperature. The decrease in estrogen levels, affects the hypothalamus in some way causing hot flashes. The hypothalamus starts thinking it is too hot. Thus, starts sending messages to the body’s nervous system to pump blood faster, dilate the blood vessels in the skin and release sweat to help the body cool off. Thus, the body cools down at a time when it should not. Thus, making the person very uncomfortable and even disrupting the nights sleep.

Symptoms of Hot Flashes

Hot flashes can occur at any time of the day. It can even cause the skin temperature to increase by 6˚. Some of the symptoms include:

  • A woman starts feeling warm on her face and upper body
  • The skin appears red, blotchy and flushed
  • Drenching perspiration
  • Chills
  • Increase in heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Weakness
  • Extreme exhaustion

These hot flashes may last for about 30 seconds to 4 minutes. They can occur once or many times during the day or night. At times, one may experience hot flashes just a couple of times during the week.

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Complications Due to Hot Flashes

Some of the complications of hot flashes include:

  • Increase in anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weak memory
  • Problems with daily work

Diagnosis of Hot Flashes

The diagnosis is based on physical examination and symptoms explained by the patient. At times, the doctor may check the thyroid gland functioning and check if the woman is approaching menopause.

Treatment for Hot Flashes

The treatment for hot flashes includes hormone replacement therapy. The patient is given estrogen and progesterone shots to overcome the symptoms. Other than this, the patient is given antidepressant, vitamin B and E, birth control pills and ibuprofen medication.

Other than these medical treatments, one can try a few remedies that will provide instant relief during a hot flash. These include:

  • Wearing light, cotton clothes always as it helps the skin breath. Avoid wearing silk and other synthetic materials, if you suffer from hot flashes.
  • Keep a bottle of cold water handy at all times. Whenever you feel hot, sip water to cool yourself down.
  • Those who suffer from night sweats, should sleep in cotton nighties and on cotton bed sheets and pillow covers. Keep the fan or air conditioner on to keep the room temperature cool.
  • Exercise regularly to reduce the symptoms of hot flashes.
  • Relax yourself and do yoga to lower stress and help reduce the effects of hot flashes like insomnia.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, chocolates and spicy foods decrease the episodes of hot flashes.

Prognosis for Hot Flashes

Hot flashes subside within 2 to 4 years after having the last period. In some women, it may continue as long as 15 years. Hormone replacement therapy that involves low-dose estrogen medication will lead to improvement in hot flashes in about 4 weeks. However, with time, the hot flashes will disappear completely.

This was all about hot flashes suffered by women around the world. Even men in some cases suffer from hot flashes. Men who have low testosterone levels or are undergoing andropause, may complain of hot flashes. If you suffer from a severe case of hot flashes, please consult your doctor for advise.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 23, 2015