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Top 10 Causes Of Hot Flashes
Even though, fluctuating levels of estrogen during post-menopausal stage in women is considered to be the main cause of hot flashes, these intense and sudden waves of heat can practically effect any one including men. According to PubMed of the National Institute of Health, about 80-90% of women experience hot flashes as the most common symptom of menopause, with the severity varying from person to person.
Some men also experience a hot flush at least once in their lifetime. The causes of hot flashes in women are still under scrutiny due to lack of a concrete relationship between menopause and hot flashes. Read on to find out all the other possible causes of hot flashes.
Main Causes Of Hot Flashes
Declining Hormonal Levels
Irrespective of your age, hormonal imbalances are considered to be a leading contender for causing heart palpitations, the rush of blood and sweats associated with hot flashes. This occurs mainly during the post-menopausal stage, pre-menstrual syndrome and in women with ovarian disorders.
Most women experience it for about two years after menopause, but a few women continue experiencing hot flashes for about 5-10 years after menopause. Hence, constantly changing levels of estrogen and progesterone can wreak havoc on your body, causing your heart to pound aggressively or your body to sweat profusely, thus leading to a hot flash.
A drop in the levels of estrogen and progesterone stimulates the production of a neuronal hormone called gonadotropin hormone (GnRH) in the brain in order to force fertility. Besides playing a role in reproduction and sexual development, this peptide hormone also regulates the heat sensors embedded within the hypothalamic temperature regulating centers of the brain.
The higher the levels of gonadotropin, the more is the heat generated in the body. Hence, in an attempt to maintain core body temperature within a regulated normal range termed as “thermoregulatory zone”, the brain triggers a heat loss mechanism.
This leads to the activation of perspiration and vasodilation of the blood vessels present in the head and the neck, in order to prevent the body from overheating. The intense amount of heat also leads to heart palpitations, flushing and sweating, which are the most prominent signs of hot flashes.
Low levels of estrogen can also alter neurotransmitter activities in the brain, most often affecting the serotonergic and noradrenergic pathways. Imbalances in the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine have been associated with many symptoms associated with hot flashes like depression, anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia or sleep disorders.
Increase in the plasma levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine is considered to be primarily responsible for lowering the thermoregulatory set point in the hypothalamus. This in turn, triggers an increase in the core body temperature and induces a heat loss response in the body.
Estrogen releases endorphins that block and counteract the effects of norepinephrine. Low levels of estrogen can also up-regulate the activity of hypothalamic serotonin receptors which, mediate heat loss and trigger hot flashes.
Abrupt Estrogen Withdrawal
During the pre-menopausal stage, sudden withdrawal of estrogen by women with gonadal dysgenesis can trigger the rapid onset of hot flashes. An abrupt discontinuity in the use of estrogen therapy by women suffering from ovarian disorders, after receiving estrogen therapy for several months can also lead to hot flashes. Hence, a rapid decline or a sudden withdrawal from estrogen rather than low circulating estrogen levels is considered as the main culprit for causing hot flashes.
Stress and Anxiety
Psychological factors like stress and anxiety can also be a reason for the occurrence of hot flashes. Increased levels of stress hormones have been linked with an increase in the severity of hot flashes. Both emotional and physical stress results in a hormonal chain reaction in the body by releasing adrenaline or epinephrine in the blood, which triggers an increase in the blood flow.
This rush of adrenaline also speeds up the heart rate and naturally brings about an increase in the body temperature. The heat loss response is hence triggered in the form of hot flashes. With excess of stress hormones to metabolize, the liver does not break down estrogen, creating an imbalance in hormonal levels that in turn, lead to hot flashes.
Blood sugar swings that occur post meal in diabetic patients serve as yet another trigger for hot flashes. An over dosage of insulin, strenuous exercise that involves burning more calories and glucose than usual and skipping meals after insulin administration can lead to the decline of glucose levels in the blood, a condition termed as hypoglycemia. This in turn leads to flushing, sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness and weakness, which are all similar to the symptoms to hot flashes.
Other Medical Conditions
Other causes of sweating and heart palpitations related to hot flashes include certain thyroid condition like subacute glaucomatous thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid and tumors like renal cell carcinoma, tumors in the pancreas, a spinal cord injury, systemic mast, carcinoid syndrome and pheochromocytom. These can be more serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Some over-the-counter medications used for treating hypertension, epilepsy, migraine and psychotic drugs used for altering the mood in people suffering from anxiety and depression may also cause hot flashes. Certain anti-depressants like Prozac or Zoloft exert their influence on the levels of serotonin that in turn, lead to a heat loss response by the body in the form of hot flashes.
Although hot flashes are most dominant in women, approximately three quarters of men who receive
androgen ablation therapy or anti-testosterone therapy for prostate cancer also experience hot flashes as an adverse effect of the treatment.
Lower levels of testosterone in men can also cause hot flashes since, testosterone aids in protecting the body from generating a heat loss response. Also, women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment by taking tamoxifen have been reported to experience hot flashes, time and again.
The removal of ovaries before attaining the age of menopause due to certain ovarian disorders like thickening of the endometrial lining around the uterus, leads to a sudden drop in the levels of estrogen. This in turn leads to a downward shift in the thermoregulatory zone in women, allowing minor changes in the body temperature to elicit a heat loss response by triggering hot flashes.
Hence, hot flashes is not an excessive domain in menopausal women and can also be triggered by several other factors like caffeine, alcohol, smoking, chocolate, cheese, obesity, hot weather, hot and spicy food containing capsaicin , etc.Top 10 Causes Of Hot Flashes,