A hot flash is a feeling of warmth spreading over the body that is often most strongly felt in the head and neck regions. Hot flashes may be accompanied by perspiration or flushing and usually last from 30 seconds to several minutes. Although hot flashes are a characteristic symptom of perimenopause, rare tumors, and other medical conditions may sometimes also cause hot flashes. Taking certain medications, eating spicy foods, and the consumption of alcohol have also been associated with the occurrence of hot flashes.
Although the exact cause of hot flashes is not fully understood, hot flashes that occur in the perimenopause are thought to be due to a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations brought on by declining estrogen levels. Hot flashes can often begin before the menstrual irregularities characteristic of menopause are even noticed. Up to 40% of regularly menstruating women in their 40s report having hot flashes. About 80% of women will be finished having hot flashes after five years, but sometimes they may persist for a longer time period. Hot flashes can sometimes be accompanied by night sweats (episodes of drenching sweats occurring at nighttime).
Hot flashes can also occur in men. Most commonly, they arise as a result of a dramatic drop in testosterone levels in men who have their testes surgically removed (as part of the treatment for prostate cancer) or who are taking medications that counteract the effects of testosterone.
Other causes of hot flashes
- Consumption of Capsaicin-Containing Foods (As in Hot Chili Peppers)
- Hot Weather or Overheated Environment
- Infection (Such as Tuberculosis)
- Medications (for Example, Antiestrogens and Some Antihypertensive Medications)
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Consumption
- Occult Malignancy
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Causes of Hot Flashes
Alcoholic (Alcoholism) and Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Carcinoid Syndrome (Carcinoid Tumor)
A carcinoid tumor is a tumor that develops from enterochromaffin cells. The important characteristic of carcinoid tumors that sets them apart from other gastrointestinal tract tumors, is their potential to cause the carcinoid syndrome. Local symptoms may include abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, flushing., gastrointestinal bleeding, and diarrhea. Often, symptoms of the carcinoid syndrome can be more devastating than the local symptoms. There are many options for the treatment of carcinoid tumors and carcinoid syndrome.
Hyperthyroidism is an excess of thyroid hormone due to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms can include increased heart rate, weight loss, heart palpitations, frequent bowel movements, depression, fatigue, fine or brittle hair, sleep problems, thinning skin, and irregular vaginal bleeding. Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Many other health problems or taking excess thyroid hormone medication can cause an overactive thyroid gland. Treatment for the condition is with medication, radioactive iodine, thyroid surgery (rarely), or reducing the dose of thyroid hormone. No diet has been shown to treat hyperthyroidism or its symptoms and signs.
Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Treatment of menopausal symptoms varies, and should be discussed with your physician.
Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal gland. Pheochromocytomas are quite rare and the vast majority of them are entirely benign. Only very rarely is a pheochromocytoma malignant. People with pheochromocytoma usually show these three symptoms: headache, sweating, and heart palpitations (a fast heart beat) in association with markedly elevated blood pressure (hypertension). Other conditions that may accompany these classic symptoms are as follows: anxiety, nausea, tremors, weakness, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
Premature menopause is when menopause occurs in a woman before the age of 40. Causes of premature menopause include premature ovarian failure, treatments for cancer and other conditions, surgical removal of the ovaries, or chronic diseases of the pituitary or thyroid gland, or psychiatric disorders. Treatment is directed at menopausal symptoms.
Stress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However, over-stress, can be harmful. There is now speculation, as well as some evidence, that points to the abnormal stress responses as being involved in causing various diseases or conditions.
Examples of Medications for Hot Flashes
- black cohosh - oral
- clonidine (Catapres, Catapres-TTS)
- conjugated equine estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate, Prempro, Premphase
- Conjugated Estrogens (Cenestin, Enjuvia, Estrace, and Others)
- ergotamine/belladonna/phenobarbital - oral, Bellergal-S
- estradiol, Alora, Climara, Delestrogen, Depo-Estradiol, Divigel, Elestrin, Estrace, and Others
- flibanserin (Addyi)
- gabapentin (Neurontin)
- paroxetine (Brisdelle)
- soy (glycine soya) - oral
- venlafaxine, Effexor XR (Effexor has been discontinued in the US)