what can cause hot flashes besides menopause

The symptoms of menopause are diverse and variable in each woman. One of the most frequent is “ hot flashes, which manifests as a sudden sensation of heat and anxiety, causing increased blood flow to the skin of the neck, face and chest, accompanied by sweating and palpitations. In 20% of women they persist for more than five years ”, explains Nicolás Mendoza, president of the Spanish Association for the Study of Menopause (AEEM), to CuídatePlus.

What Can Cause Hot Flashes Besides Menopause
What Can Cause Hot Flashes Besides Menopause

“Their duration is usually short, usually a few seconds, although sometimes they can even last several minutes. Their frequency throughout the day is variable, and it is usual that they also appear at night ”, points out Victoria Valdés Devesa, from the Menopause Unit of the Gynecology Service of the Quirónsalud University Hospital Madrid.

The hot flushes at night are similar to those during the day, but their characteristics cause that when they occur during the night they cause sleep disturbances. ” Usually the appearance of hot flashes wakes the woman and makes it difficult for her to fall asleep again. In fact, sleep disturbance due to hot flashes is a frequent complaint in women at this stage, “says Valdés. In this regard, Mendoza adds that “ insomnia is most of the time due to the discomfort caused by hot flashes at night, but biochemical changes in the brain and in the sleep structure that have been related to the fall of estrogens during menopause. ”

Is it known why they occur?

Hot flashes are due to the hormonal imbalance of menopause itself, a stage characterized primarily by a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels . The gynecologist at Quirónsalud Madrid offers the following explanation: “ The reduction of estrogens seems to alter the normal functioning of the body ‘s thermoregulatory center, located in the hypothalamus. In short, what happens is that the malfunction of this thermoregulatory center causes body temperature to rise, and then, to try to decrease it, vasodilation occurs, which manifests itself as an increase in skin temperature, redness and sweating. ”

A common symptom in menopause

Valdés affirms that most women have symptoms associated with menopause and hot flashes are among the most common, reaching up to 80% of them . In many occasions they appear, even, in the so-called perimenopause, when they still have rules, but they begin to present irregular menstrual cycles. According to their frequency and duration, they are classified as mild, moderate or severe.

Regarding hot flashes, the President of the AEEM mentions that various works have found that their intensity and frequency are different depending on the race of women or geographic location. Southeast Asian women have far fewer hot flashes than European or American women, which has been linked to a diet rich in vegetables and soy. The body mass index (BMI) also influences, with hot flashes being more common in obese women due to the greater difficulty in dispersing heat.

Although hot flashes are the symptoms that we usually associate with menopause and perimenopause, it is very common to present joint pain, headaches or insomnia. Anxiety, irritability, emotional lability, and difficulty concentrating often appear.

In the medium term, the lack of hormones causes dry skin and mucous membranes that can manifest as vaginal dryness and pain with sexual intercourse, which in many cases leads to a decrease or absence of sexual desire. Mendoza adds to the list other symptoms as diverse as weight gain, hair loss and depression.

It is important to note that after menopause there is a worsening of bone and cardiovascular health, with increased cholesterol and loss of bone mass.

Valdés remembers that a healthy lifestyle is essential at this stage, as it will help us prevent the long-term consequences of menopause. Still, we should not assume that there is no cure for the associated symptoms because there are a variety of treatments for each of them. When our quality of life is affected by the symptoms of menopause, it is important to consult with a specialist gynecologist who will help us find the best therapy in each case. ”

In fact, Mendoza confirms, hot flashes have a considerable impact on the quality of life. More than half of women with menopause consider that hot flashes affect their quality of life a lot or a lot, thus becoming one of the main reasons for consultation. “This happens especially when they are intense, frequent or long-lasting,” specifies the Quirónsalud specialist.

Recommendations to relieve hot flashes

Menopause experts stress that keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding sudden temperature changes, or dressing in multiple layers is measures that can help prevent or cope with hot flashes. Alcohol, very hot or spicy foods should be avoided, as they act as triggers. No smoking, aerobic exercise of moderate intensity and according to age and the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil are especially important measures at this stage.

Maintaining a stimulating social and intellectual life is useful to prevent hot flashes and various pathologies that appear at this stage, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis .

Finally, periodic reviews and following the recommendations that the doctor prescribes according to the risk factors that each woman presents, will help maintain a good quality of life after menopause and achieve healthy aging.

As Valdés recalls, natural treatments such as soy isoflavones or Cimicifuga racemosa can be helpful when symptoms are mild. However, “in many cases they are insufficient and it is necessary to resort to hormonal treatments. Contrary to popular belief, the benefits of hormone replacement treatments in women with menopausal symptoms are demonstrated with a high level of evidence. They globally improve women ‘s health at this stage, significantly reduce symptoms and also provide additional benefits in terms of bone health, cardiovascular health, improvement of skin and mucosa, etc. “