What Everyone Needs to Know About Hot Flushes (flashes)
What is a Hot Flush?
A hot flush, also known as a hot flash, comes on as an unannounced intense wave of heat and can last from minutes to half an hour. Severity can range from feeling uncomfortable to debilitating heat with sweats and even heart palpitations. Some experience hot flushes during the day and others primarily at night while sleeping. At night hot flushes are often accompanied by night sweats. Signs that someone is experiencing a hot flush are sweating, skin warm to the touch and becoming red like blushing.
Who Gets Hot Flushes?
Hot flushes are normally thought of as a symptom of perimenopause (time leading up to menopause) and menopause. In reality, women and men can experience hot flushes for a variety of reasons. Even relatively young people can have them. Various environmental and medical conditions and treatments can cause hot flushes.
Some women never have hot flushes or only minor ones. However, many women can get them more than once a day. At night hot flushes can lead to insomnia. High temperatures indoors or out can worsen hot flushes.
What is the Cause of Hot Flushes?A blood test can tell whether hot flushes are caused by menopause or something else. The test looks at specific hormone levels in the blood. Often around age 50, hormone levels begin to change bringing with them physiological and physical changes along with hot flushes. Hormonal changes cause hot flushes by disruption to part of the brain (hypothalamus) which controls autonomic functions such as body temperature and circulation.
For most women, their hot flushes eventually taper off and disappear. For some, they persist for years and never completely go away.
If a person is experiencing hot flushes and their age suggests that it is not likely menopause, a blood test can suggest alternate causes. Common non-menopausal causes of hot flushes include:
Food and drink can trigger hot flushes. Alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, are all known triggers. Do the symptoms appear mainly after eating certain types of food or after a few drinks? Changing eating habits and cutting back on alcohol and coffee might alleviate the problems.
Some medications can have hot flushes as a side effect and can happen as long as the medication is taken. Stopping the medication or changing to a different one might stop the problem.
Metabolism is related to normal thyroid function. Hyperthyroidism produces too much thyroid hormone and can elevate metabolism producing hot flushes and sweating. In more rare situations, hot flushes can also indicate thyroid cancer.
Feelings of stress and anxiety can cause hot flush feelings caused by adrenaline. Reducing stress can reduce symptoms.
Certain kinds of tumours secrete hormones. For example, pancreatic tumours affect digestion and insulin production and disrupt normal organ functioning.
A range of medical treatments and conditions can produce symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats. People living with Multiple Sclerosis often report they feel worse when it's hot. Chemotherapy can cause similar symptoms.
If hot flushes are not linked to menopause, doctors will look for other causes and might recommend blood tests and other diagnostics. If no medical cause is found, lifestyle changes may bring relief.
Treatment and Therapies
There are various pharmaceutical treatments for hot flushes. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is common. There are also supplements available to treat hot flushes. Medications including anti-depressants and certain pain medications have been found to help some women.
So what to do if you don't want to take medication or supplement? Women report various ways of managing triggers to reduce occurrences and severity of hot flushes.
• reducing alcohol intake.
• stay away from spicy foods.
• keeping ambient temperature lower.
• try to reduce stress and anxiety.
• wear looser clothing.
• What if you get hot flashes anyway? Some women suggest sleeping wearing a damp T-shirt.
• apply ice cubes to the back of the neck.
• damp towel.
These solutions may be alright at home, but what about the times while out and about? Wouldn't it be great to have a non-medical treatment that was easy to use, practical, go anywhere and stylish.
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