Hot Flash Symptoms

{flickr|100|campaign} Have you ever wondered what causes hot flashes? One cause is due to the onset of menopause later in a woman’s life. The part of brain that regulates body temperature called the hypothalamus, is falsely reacting due to a change in estrogen. The hypothalamus believes that the body is too warm, which causes blushing in the face and neck, sweating, and even increased heart rate.

Some men on the controversial andropause, men on hormone restriction therapy for prostate problems, persons with hyperthyroidism, low blood pressure and low blood sugar are also prone to hot flashes. The mechanism of hot flashes is simple. The blood vessels on the neck and head enlarge and allow more blood than normal to pass. This gives the hot feeling and causes other symptoms. The cause of the blood vessels’ dilating is still unknown.

Hot flashes are caused by hormonal changes that take place in the female body during or after menopause. The particular hormone connected with hot flashes is estrogen. A fall in the estrogen level directly ‘confuses’ the hypothalamus, which is the body’s thermostat. Thus confused, the hypothalamus mistakes the change as excessive heat. This triggers the brain’s heat-releasing mechanism.

During pregnancy, estrogen levels tend to fluctuate in some women. Even among menopausal women, where 75% suffer from hot flashes, it is not the level of estrogen or other hormones that cause the problem, but the fluctuating hormone levels. Hot flashes are a hot feeling on the neck and face, making the face red, and may be accompanied by sweating, dizziness, head ache and heart palpitation.

To cool the hot area there is perspiration. This could be anything from slight moist skin to profuse sweating. The heart beats faster to compensate. There may be palpitation or irregular heartbeats. Since the head is directly affected, there is a chance of headache and dizziness. All this put together makes you feel weak and suffocated. Insomnia is a common complaint after hot flashes. After the attack is over you feel very chilled, as the body temperature is very low.

The most effective treatment had been hormone replacement therapy. But its side effects, specially the chances of getting cancer, make it a last resort. There are other management techniques and herbal medications available to treat hot flashes. For the persons prone to hot flashes, some things trigger them. By keeping a record of certain lifestyle events and the occurrence of hot flashes, you may be able to pinpoint the trigger and stop the attack.

With the onset of puberty, hormone production increases, which protects the women from many an illness. With menopause, these hormones decline. For some women the reduction is gradual, and their problem with hot flashes is mild or nil. With others, the hormonal levels fluctuate widely, and this causes most of the menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes.

Estrogen therapy has proved to be the most effective therapy for hot flashes. But the potential side effects, like endometrial cancer, make it the last resort. An anti-depressant drug, venlafaxine, offers a good nonhormonal treatment for hot flashes. The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Charles says, “I am not aware of any other non-hormonal treatment that has been studied that is as effective.

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