What Causes Hot Flashes Apart from Menopause?

This sudden, strong feeling of heat can happen for reasons other than menopause.

What Causes Hot Flashes Apart from Menopause?

Hot flashes are often a sign of menopause, but they can also be caused by other things in your life or by health problems. They do not always mean that something is wrong.

A hot flash refers to the sudden warmth felt in the upper body, usually most intense over the face, neck and chest, where the skin might redden and sweating may occur. Hot flashes are mainly due to menopause — the time when menstrual periods come to an end. Hot flashes occur as the most common symptom of the menopausal transition. However, other medical conditions can cause them. Read on to learn about the causes of hot flashes apart from menopause and their respective management strategies.

Symptoms of hot flashes

Hot flashes can cause a person to have:

  • A sudden feeling of warmth spreading through your chest, neck and face

  • A flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin

  • Perspiration or heavy sweating, particularly on the upper body

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • A chilled feeling as the hot flash lets up

  • Feelings of anxiety

The intensity and frequency of hot flashes vary among women. A single episode may last a minute or as long as 5 minutes. They may be mild or intense enough to disrupt daily activities. They can happen at any time of day or night. Night-time hot flashes are also called night sweats and can cause serious sleep disruptions.

Menopause

Menopause is a major trigger of hot flashes. It is when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs, and her levels of oestrogen and progesterone decrease. This decrease in hormones is thought to be the reason behind hot flashes.

For severe symptoms, a doctor is likely to suggest hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help balance the hormone levels and relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, like night sweats. However, HRT may predispose a patient to breast cancer and heart issues. The OB/GYN will discuss all possible options before committing to a treatment.

Prescription medications

Hot flashes are a side effect of many common prescription drugs, such as opioids, antidepressants, and some osteoporosis drugs. Certain steroids for treating swelling can also trigger hot flashes.

Your healthcare provider will likely switch you to a similar drug that doesn’t leave you hot under the collar should you report uncomfortable hot flashes. They may also reassure you that the discomfort won’t last long since hot flashes will disappear once your body adjusts to the medication.

A hot bedroom

Your body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the night. So it’s common for women (and men) to wake up in the middle of the night feeling overheated or sweaty.

Turning down the thermostat, sleeping with fewer blankets or clothes, and keeping your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees will give you an optimal snooze. To prevent night sweats, you can also try these cooling sheets, cooling pillows, and lightweight comforters.

Excess weight

Excess weight can affect your metabolism and promote hot flashes as a body response. Hot flashes are reported to be more common in women who gain weight during menopause.

Eating foods rich in nutrients and exercising more frequently can address the issue, especially if you’re overweight or obese.

 

Diet

Your diet also has the potential to trigger a hot flash. Alcohol, beer, and wine, with chemicals that can cause blood vessel dilation, can trigger a sensation of sudden heat and skin flushing. Blood vessel dilation can also happen when a person consumes foods and ingredients containing the active compound capsaicin, like hot peppers and chilli powder, as well as foods with nitrite and nitrate compounds, commonly found in processed foods like hot dogs and deli meats. Any hot drinks like coffee or tea can raise your body temperature, sometimes leading to a hot flash or flushing.

Pay attention to how your body reacts the next time you ingest any of the foods above, and you may find a correlation. If that doesn’t help, consider consulting your dietitian for a diet plan.

Anxiety disorders and panic attacks

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Anxiety disorders can cause a variety of symptoms like a racing heartbeat, nervous fidgeting, heavy breathing, increased sweating, and hot flashes. For instance, people who are having a panic attack commonly experience a sudden sensation of heat or a hot flash. This symptom is associated with the body's release of stress hormones during a perceived “fight or flight” situation, increasing circulation and blood flow to the muscles and producing an uncomfortable, hot feeling.

Natural remedies like exercise, meditation, and yoga can help calm anxiety. If these don’t work, you may be suffering from a more severe form of anxiety and should consider seeking medical advice.

Niacin supplements

Niacin is a vitamin B that’s commonly taken as a supplement. Flushing or hot flashes are common side effects of the supplement. The reaction happens as blood vessels expand, causing blood to flow to the skin’s surface and a sudden feeling of heat to rise.

If you prefer to keep taking a niacin supplement, discuss with your doctor about changing your dosage if you are experiencing hot flashes. You may also consider cutting down on caffeine or using a “flush-free” form to help relieve the supplement's side effects.

Taking aspirin before you take your dose of niacin can also decrease flushing and itching. If you are having trouble with niacin side effects, you may want to try taking a 325 mg aspirin dose at least 15 to 30 minutes before taking the niacin to see if it helps improve your symptoms.

Breast cancer treatment

Hot flashes and night sweats can also be side effects of breast cancer treatment. Often, radiation and chemotherapy can cause premature menopause in young women, and older women can go into menopause due to chemo. With menopause comes changes in hormone levels. For example, if a woman takes the oestrogen-modulating drug tamoxifen, it can cause her oestrogen levels to drop and trigger hot flashes. Specific procedures, like an oophorectomy (surgical removal of one or both ovaries), can also cause low oestrogen levels and hot flashes.

To help manage your symptoms, limit your consumption of spicy foods and hot drinks and avoid triggers like stress and alcohol. Take a cool shower before bed, and lower your bedroom temperature. Sleep in clothing and bedding made of natural materials like cotton, linen, and silk.

The takeaway

If you’re regularly struggling with hot flashes, it’s best to check in with a doctor for proper guidance. The treatment options will depend on the underlying cause of your hot flashes. In general, you can try wearing light, loose clothes to bed, keeping your house cool, and drinking plenty of water.

There’s only so much you can do to stop hot flashes altogether, but these steps should help ease your experience.

To learn more about the various symptoms of menopause and how to prevent them, read thoroughly here.

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