What causes hot flashes?

What causes hot flashes?

Two women discussing what causes hot flashes

Hot flashes are primarily associated with the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. But, these hot flashes are different from individual to individual. For instance, some people might not notice the symptoms of hot flashes, while for some, the effects are quite intense to disrupt their daily lives. Apart from the severity, the duration of hot flashes is also different for each individual. 

How Do Hot Flashes Feel Like?

A hot flash is a heat sensation, whose main starting points are the neck and head areas. As mentioned earlier, hot flashes are one of the common symptoms women approaching or already in the early stages of menopause experience. 

What Causes Hot Flashes?

As you approach menopause, the level of estrogen in your body starts to fall. This affects the functionality of the hypothalamus, which is an important part of your brain. Typically, the hypothalamus helps control your sleep patterns, body temperature, appetite, and even sex hormones. 

But, according to health experts, once the estrogen levels in your body drop, they throw the hypothalamus or simply your body’s thermostat off balance-sometimes it’s working as expected, and other times acting all confused sending out too hot signals.

Once your brain receives these too-hot reports, it literally presses the emergency button sending warning signals to other vital parts of the body. For instance, the heart, blood vessels, and the entire nervous system receive an alert to immediately start getting rid of the heat! So, because of the urgent nature of the hot report alerts, these body systems literally “drop everything else” they were doing and start responding immediately. But how?

  • Your heart begins to pump faster
  • Your skin’s blood vessels dilate allowing the circulation of more blood-this meant to fan off the heat
  • Your sweat glands work extra hard to release more sweat to help you cool off.

You can liken this heat-releasing process to the one your body uses over hot seasons of the year, such as summer to prevent your body from overheating. However, since the process of hot flashes is suddenly triggered by the dropping of estrogen, your brain also gives a confusing response causing discomfort.

What Causes the Discomfort Feeling of Hot Flashes?

You see,

  • During those hot flashes, your skin temperature suddenly rises by around 42.8° Fahrenheit.
  • And the heat causes your body to work extra hard to cool itself down when it shouldn’t
  • Now, you are soaking wet, in the middle of a good nap, or daily routine.

So frustrating!

What Else Causes Hot Flashes?

Apart from menopause, some hormonal therapies can lower the level of estrogen in your body leading to hot flash episodes. The same case applies to therapies blocking estrogen’s effects, such as tamoxifen, and letrozole, among others.

So, if you are approaching menopause, are in menopause, or post-menopause, and already experiencing hot flashes, they might intensify once you start using such medications.