Hot flashes are one of the most significant clinical features of menopause. It is also called as vasomotor instability. Hot flashes occur during the perimenopause stages or even due to induced or premature menopause conditions. The predominant cause of hot flashes is still under speculation, however hot flashes is associated with the circulatory changes and also changes pertaining to the hypothalamus dysfunction located in the brain. This is due to the sudden withdrawal in the estrogen levels. Hot flashes often result in flushed look on the face due to sudden generation of heat and instant cooling down due to the dilation of blood vessels. Hot flashes can also result in night sweats which cause disturbed sleep patterns. Hot flashes generally occur in the regions of face, neck and chest. Perspiration, tachycardia is also associated with hot flashes. The time lapse of hot flashes lasts for only a few minutes. The duration of hot flashes due to menopause differs from person to person.
Causes of hot flashes
The causes of hot flashes are associated with the diet and lifestyle of an individual. Women who smoke and consume alcohol are at greater risk of developing premature menopause condition associated hot flashes. In addition, high caffeine intake, spicy food, irregular diet habits and also tight and uncomfortable clothing induce the onset of hot flashes. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle can also provoke the onset of hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes often cause night sweats leading to severe sleep disturbances. This may result in the development of chronic insomnia. Disturbed sleep patterns may affect the digestive functions and also lead many psychological conditions such as depression.
Hot flashes after menopause
Post-menopausal symptoms may lead to variety of complications to women. The level of progesterone at this point drops to zero. The level of estrogens drops to 60 percent leading to health problems such as hot flashes, urinary incontinence, digestive disorders, decreased sex drive, bleeding, vaginal discharge and appearance of facial hair. Although hot flashes after menopause are not predominant, they usually last for a period of two months to two years. This is mainly due to the influence of the hypothalamus which acts as a thermostat of the body. Although hot flashes occur even after menopause, the ability to control them depends upon the individualís lifestyle.
Treating hot flashes
1. Massage, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
2. Avoiding food that trigger hot flashes such as spicy foods, high fat content etc.
3. Lighter clothing plays a role in controlling the onset of hot flashes.
Menopause tests involve measuring levels of FSH to check for menopause. There are menopause test kits that are easy to use and FDA cleared. Women suffering from hot flashes, vaginal dryness and missed menstrual cycle can make use of these kits within the privacy of their homes. Typically they look out for elevated levels of FSH. Since constantly high FSH levels are indicative of low estrogen levels, it may herald perimenopause or menopause. Regular menopause tests can be done with a blood or urine test at a laboratory.
The ovaries produce estrogen, progesterone and androgens to regulate the menstrual cycle. When a hysterectomy occurs, these hormones get suddenly interrupted and their levels fall resulting in symptoms of menopause. This is termed surgical menopause. Although removal of ovaries becomes unavoidable in most hysterectomy surgeries, every effort is made by the surgeon to leave the ovaries intact in order to avoid the sudden absence of hormones. Most often, surgical menopause is caused quite dramatically when there is surgical interference like hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy, where both the ovaries are removed. A woman undergoing surgical menopause experiences certain symptoms more profoundly than women going through menopause normally. Since there is abrupt disruption of hormones after hysterectomy, the menopausal symptoms are more severe, more frequent and last longer when compared to natural menopause. The symptoms are triggered by the body's sudden inability to make certain hormones due to the removal of ovaries.
Estrogen is immediately given after surgery to try to prevent the intense changes especially the hot flashes that can occur in woman undergoing hysterectomy. However the use of estrogen is itself controversial and it is not usually recommended for women with existing or high risk of cardiovascular disease. A lowest dose of estrogen for the shortest possible time is recommended.
Surgical menopause risks
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Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: June 9, 2023