Hot flashes are sudden feelings of increase of the body temperature mainly associated with menopause, but it can also affect men.
In menopausal women, hot flashes are typically more intense at the face, the neck and the chest, which can cause redness of the skin. They may be associated with an increase in heart rate and intense sweating followed by an equally intense cold feeling. Their frequency varies from person to person, but they generally last for a few minutes and appear especially at night. The exact cause remains unclear, but it is thought to be the result of hormonal changes typical of menopause and an increased sensitivity of the control system of the body temperature, which becomes more sensitive to small changes.
Fluctuations in hormone levels can also be the basis of hot flashes that affect men, in particular a reduction of testosterone and androgen associated to aging.
However, in both women and men the problem can also be associated with actual diseases, such as hyperthyroidism, prostate cancer, hypothalamus or pituitary gland diseases. Hot flashes can also be triggered by cancer treatments.
General symptoms of hot flashes may include:
- A sudden feeling of warmth spreading through the upper body and face
- Perspiration (mostly on the upper body)
- Rapid heartbeat
- A flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin
- Cold sensation as the hot flash subsides
Hot flashes that occur during the night (night sweats) can cause one to lose sleep and may cause chronic insomnia over time. These sleep disturbances can eventually lead to memory problems, anxiety and depression in some women.
What diseases can be associated with hot flashes?
The diseases that may be associated with hot flashes are the following:
- Panic attack
- Prostate cancer
- Testicular cancer
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and it would always be better to consult a doctor if symptoms persist.
What are the remedies for hot flashes?
Generally the most effective remedy for hot flashes is taking female hormones. Men can also benefit from female hormones in cases where the problem is triggered by an anti-cancer treatment. However, several studies show the potential side effects of hormone therapy. Therefore, it is important to discuss with a doctor the relationship between the risks and benefits in your specific case. In some cases, hot flashes may be treated with medications such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants, while in other cases the problem goes away in a short time and does not require any medication. In these cases a doctor may recommend changes such as reducing food consumption of spicy foods, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, more rest, do not overheat, do not smoke, losing excess pounds or rely on complementary medicine such as acupuncture and hypnosis or dietary supplements, in particular those based on phytoestrogens.
When to contact your doctor?
In cases where hot flashes are associated with menopause seek medical help to manage them in the best way possible, so they do not significantly affect the quality of life. In other cases, you should consult a doctor to determine the underlying problem and identify the most appropriate treatment to the case.