Hot flushes are one of the most common and most prominent symptoms of menopause.
An episode of hot flushes (also called hot flushes) can happen in an instant, and often when you least expect it. This can cause a shock of anxiety, which can make the episode even worse! However, when treated correctly, you can face menopausal hot flushes with confidence and keep them to a minimum!
It can be difficult to say how exactly you will experience hot flushes, as the onset, duration, frequency, and severity of the episodes varies from one woman to the next.
What Exactly Are Hot Flushes?
Hot flushes are classified as a vasomotor symptom of menopause, which means that they are caused by a temporary change in the blood vessel size and shape. Hot flushes include the sudden feeling of heat, perspiration, and often other symptoms as well.
Some women claim to experience an “aura” or feeling of uneasiness just before they experience an episode of hot flushes.
Hot flushes can be experienced any time of the day or night, but the one’s that happen at night are also referred to as night sweats if they happen while you are sleeping. Hot flushes can last from only a few seconds, up to a few minutes. However, it can take up to 30 minutes to feel completely back to normal after an episode. The frequency can vary from periodically, all the way to as much as 20 times per day.
Symptoms of Hot Flushes
There is usually a consistent and unique pattern of symptoms that you will experience during an episode, however combination of symptoms as well as the severity of each symptom can vary from one woman to the next.
Some of the most common symptoms include…
- The reddening of the face and neck, called flushing.
- Sudden and often intense feelings of heat in the face, neck, arms, torso, and sometimes even the entire body.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse including heart palpitations.
- Noticeable perspiration.
- Cold chills after hot flushes.
- Sleep disturbances.
Risk Factors of Menopausal Hot Flushes
While the frequency and severity may differ between women, there are actually women who are more likely to experience sever hot flushes.
The risk factors include…
- Certain medical conditions and their treatment (Example: breast cancer treated with tamoxifen).
- Going through premature or surgical menopause.
- Lifestyle factors (eating spicy food, smoking, using the sauna).
Causes of Hot Flushes
To properly treat hot flushes, it’s best to first understand why they happen…
While the exact causes of hot flushes are not completely understood, the research done until now suggests that it is mainly caused by the changes in hormones that a woman undergoes. There are some other factors that might add on to the development of hot flushes, but they are discussed below…
- Hormonal Causes of Hot Flushes
This is by far the most common cause of hot flushes, with the main influential hormone being estrogen. When a woman is approaching menopause, she will normally experience mild to severe fluctuations in her hormone levels, the most noticeable one being the decrease in estrogen. Decreased amounts of estrogen can directly affect the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain responsible for controlling body temperature, among other functions.
Lowered estrogen levels “confuse” the hypothalamus, causing it to wrongly sense that the body is overheating. The hypothalamus then sends messages to the body to go into “cool down” mode, leading to flushing, sweating, and the other reactions that women experience as “hot flushes”.
- The estrogen withdrawal theory
Some experts say that estrogen withdrawal affects certain neurotransmitters and ultimately causes hot flushes. According to them, the decrease in estrogen causes the hypothalamus to signal the production of norepinephrine and serotonin.
These neurotransmitters are responsible for deciding when the heat loss mechanisms are activated within the body. When more of these chemicals are produced, heat loss mechanisms are more easily triggered by even the smallest changes in core body temperature, thus causing hot flushes.
- Other Causes of Hot Flushes
Although less common than hormonal changes certain medical conditions and medications can cause a person to experience hot flushes. For this reason, women for whom menopause is unlikely or women with other unexplained symptoms should consult a doctor to rule out these other potential causes of hot flushes.
Diseases That Can Cause Hot Flushes
- Thyroid disease
- Panic disorder
Medications That Can Cause Hot Flushes
- Raloxifene (osteoporosis drug)
- Tamoxifen (breast cancer drug)
- Gonadotropin analogues (e.g., nafarelin)
Treating Hot Flushes
The first and most important key for treating menopausal hot flushes is patience. Since hot flushes are unpredictable, it can often be difficult to tell whether or not a certain treatment is working. Luckily there are certain ways to treat hot flushes that work extremely well in most cases.
The next key thing to do is to take note and keep track of the circumstances under which your hot flushes occur most often. Look at things like:
- The time of the episode
- Your emotional state at the time of the episode
- Your stress levels
- What you have eaten or drank before the episode
- The type of clothing that you were wearing
- Ways how you tried to get relieve from the episode of hot flushes & whether or not they worked
This can help you more accurately determine the cause and the triggers for your hot flushes, and then treat them more effectively.
Download the Manna Hot Flushes eBook for effective treatment options.