Hot flashes causes that stinging sensation you first feel on the skin of the face, neck and chest. Then the redness or flushing begins to rise and the sweating begins. Sound familiar? If it does, you are experiencing hot flashes.
What Exactly are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are also known as “hot flushes,” “flushing,” or “night sweats,” but the appropriate medical terminology is Vasomotor Flushing. A hot flash is technically a vasomotor “event.” The event occurs when blood vessels in the skin dilate and allow extra blood volume to flow through them. This along with sweating is the body’s attempt to cool itself.
The hot flashes causes are actually reactions to a sudden imbalance in hormone levels which sends the signal to the hypothalamus of the brain telling it the body is too hot. The intensity and duration of the hot flashes generally lasts from 2 to 5 minutes, though there is no hard and fast rule.
They can occur several times daily, only a few times a week or anytime during the night which disrupts normal sleep patterns. Sometimes hot flashes causes dizziness, uneasiness, nausea, shortness of breath, headaches and fainting. Hot flashes can even present themselves in one episode followed closely by another.
Who Gets Hot Flashes?
It is common knowledge that the most frequent victims of hot flashes are perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal women. However, they are no longer the only hot flash sufferers. Women who have ovarian failure prior to age 40 are susceptible, as are some pregnant women.
Hot flashes causes some people who have suffered from cancer, both men and women to suffer with the heat and sweating they can bring. Hot flashes that occur during the sleeping cycle can lead to complications such as insomnia, low energy levels, mood swings and a general feeling of not being well.
Those who take certain drugs or have other common medical conditions may have hot flashes as a side effect of the condition or the treatment of the condition.
What Causes Hot Flashes and What are Hot Flash Triggers?
Although scientists and medical professionals still do not know the exact causes of hot flashes, they are able to identify triggers that may bring them on and conditions or treatments where hot flashes are more likely to be a side effect.
Medical hot flashes causes are thought to involve variations in hormone levels (most specifically estrogen) and the effects of those levels on the brain’s hypothalamus. The most often recognized and commonly treated cause of hot flashes is all stages of female menopause.
Hot flashes are now understood to be a more widespread problem than just the menopausal form. Premature ovarian failure and pregnancy can cause the same hot flash symptoms as menopause. Women who smoke, are overweight, do not exercise and African American women have a higher risk of hot flashes. On the other hand Asian women rarely suffer with hot flashes.
Other medical conditions such as low blood pressure, low blood sugar and hypothyroidism can cause hot flashes in both males and females. Survivors of ovarian, breast or prostate cancer or those with the disease in an advanced stage, whether they were treated by medical or surgical procedures, may have frequent hot flashes.
There are many prescription medications that contribute to hot flashes. If you take hormone blocking therapy for prostate cancer, breast cancer treatment and prevention drugs or infertility drugs, hot flashes may be a side effect.
There are many common “triggers” (personally controllable things or actions) that can bring on an episode of hot flashes. Diet, for example is within your control. Avoid foods that are hot and spicy or contain tyramine (some cheese, red wine, tomatoes, and citrus fruit). Alcohol and caffeine can cause warming sensations.
Drink cool beverages rather than hot to assist with lowering body heat. Smoking increases body temperature. Stay inside when the weather is hot and use a fan to circulate the air. Dress the bed and wear, loosely woven cotton, dress in light layers and do not overdress for exercise or exercise in a room that is too hot. If at all possible, avoid stress and anxiety since these emotional states can also trigger hot flashes.