If you have ever experienced a hot flash, you probably know that they can be uncomfortable and disruptive to your daily life, even making normal day-to-day tasks difficult at times.
Hot flashes are a feeling of warmth…sometimes extremely excessive warmth…that can be accompanied by flushing that spreads over the body (most typically on the face and neck), and is sometimes followed by perspiration. Hot flashes are commonly caused by certain foods and drinks – particularly spicy food, food or drinks containing caffeine and alcoholic beverages; medication side effects; stress; smoking; and even tight clothing.
Hot flashes are also the most common symptom of menopause and perimenopause, which are caused by a natural decrease in the production of estrogen and progesterone (the female reproductive hormones) as women over the age of 40 continue to grow older. Additionally, a complete hysterectomy may cause an early onset of menopausal symptoms.
Let’s address these symptoms. Menopause may cause symptoms including irregular periods, mood swings and vaginal dryness, but the number one symptom of menopause is hot flashes. In fact, over two-thirds of the women in North America experience hot flashes when they begin the journey leading into menopause.
Luckily, some women over 40 may never experience a hot flash, yet others will suffer from them for a long period of time – possibly even over 10 years. Most typically, however, the average duration of suffering from hot flashes due to menopause and its onset is somewhere in the middle.
Hot flashes due to menopause and perimenopause can be diagnosed with a blood test to check hormone levels. For treatment to help control excessive hot flashes and mood swings, medication or hormone therapy can be prescribed.
There are steps you can take on your own to help alleviate less serious cases of hot flashes due to any cause, including dressing in layers so that you can remove clothing as your body temperature rises. Also try to wear lightweight, breathable clothing and natural fibers such as cotton. Induce relaxation by practicing stress reducing techniques. Practicing deep, slow abdominal breathing is an excellent example of a good stress reducer you can try and it is easy. Take 6 to 8 deep breaths per minute for 15 minutes each morning, evening and, if you are able, when a hot flash occurs. Try to exercise daily and keep your body at its optimal weight. Also avoid smoking and any foods and drinks that tend to trigger your hot flashes.
When menopausal hot flashes occur during sleep they are referred to as night sweats. Night sweats can be very uncomfortable and disruptive to sleep patterns. However, night sweats may not be caused by menopause or perimenopause. Night sweats can also be attributed to other hormonal imbalances, infections, hypoglycemia, neurological conditions and idiopathic hyperhidrosis, which is an excessive sweating condition.
Hyperthyroidism is also a very common cause of hot flashes, with more than 3 million cases each year in the United States alone. Hyperthyroidism is an increased production of hormones from the thyroid gland, which can be caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder; excessive intake of iodine by way of diet, dietary supplements or certain medications; tumors or infections of the thyroid gland; and certain tumors of the ovaries, testes or pituitary gland.
Aside from hot flashes, symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include a swollen thyroid gland, bulging eyes, rapid heartbeat, increased metabolism and/or blood pressure, shaking hands, sweating, nausea, increased bowel movements, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles in women, breast development in men, restlessness and difficulty sleeping.
A diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is most commonly determined with blood testing for sugar, cholesterol and thyroid stimulating hormones, and scans for thyroid abnormalities and function.
Reducing the production of hormones from the thyroid gland are currently the primarily methods of treatment. Medications – such as anti-thyroids like methimazole to help eliminate hormone production, and beta blockers like propranolol to control rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating and an increased pulse rate – can be prescribed to control symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Radioactive iodine therapy can also be used to destroy cells that produce hormones from the thyroid gland. In severe cases, if all other treatments fail, surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland is an alternative solution.
Suggested steps you can take for prevention of hyperthyroidism include regular exercise, the avoidance of smoking and alcohol, exploring relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing exercises, as well as eating a nutritious diet fortified with the required amounts of iodine and calcium.
Riverside Clinical Research is an award winning medical research facility that incorporates the services of clinical trial volunteers to help create a brighter future for everyone.
Researchers at the Riverside Clinical Research facility are currently planning clinical research trials for hot flashes. If you suffer from hot flashes and you think you may be a good candidate for clinical trial participation, feel free to call the Riverside Clinical Research professionals for more information at 386-428-7730 Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
You are also welcome to enroll with Riverside Clinical Research so that you may be contacted about studies conducted in your area. Simply access the patient portal on our website. Riverside Clinical Research can also be reached by email at email@example.com and is conveniently located at 1410 S. Ridgewood Avenue in Edgewater.