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Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash? Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

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  #1  
Unread 08-20-2009, 03:06 PM
Question - Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash? Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

...specifically, is there one that can answer a physiological question? I'd just like to know: what, exactly, happens to your body (physiologically speaking) when you experience a hot flash or night sweat? I get this unbelievable surge of "heat" and then the perspiration breaks out all over my body. The sweat literally runs down my face in droplets! I have to believe, though, that my actual body temperature is normal, that it doesn't go through the roof -- that would be considered a fever. So, what changes within your body to cause this sensation and reaction? I know it's triggered by estrogen, but how does this work? Can anybody explain?
  #2  
Unread 08-20-2009, 03:32 PM
Re: Is there a doctor out there in "SisterLand"?

Interesting question. I look forward to hearing what others have to say.
  #3  
Unread 08-20-2009, 05:29 PM
Re: Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

Well, it used to be thought that the hypothalamus somehow "reset" the body's thermostat, calling for a slightly cooler internal temperature; the body's response would include dilation of the blood vessels nearest the skin's surface as well as perspiration, and the internal temperature would fall, rising to normal again after the flash was over.

However, it's not clear that that's what's going on. It seems that somehow the body is "deciding" to try to cool itself suddenly, which causes the reactions that are felt, but it's not been proven that the hypothalamus has anything to do with it. No one knows for sure what exactly triggers a hot flash.

There was one study which found that internal body temperature does drop during a hot flash and rise back to normal afterwards, supporting the theory that the hot flash is the body's way of cooling itself - we just don't know why it happens.

There was a study recently surveying a number of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women to see if there were some women more likely to get hot flashes than others. The conclusions were that women whose mothers had hot flashes at menopause were more likely to get them, and also that smokers are more likely to get hot flashes than non-smokers.

Yep, some women actually do not get hot flashes. Myself, when my estrogen level is too low, I get a weird 'buzzing', electrical feeling under my skin, mostly in the upper extremities and face, but I don't break out in a sweat - although, when I was perimenopausal, I did have frequent night sweats (but no hot flashes during the day). We're all different!

There have also been some studies that indicate that serotonin has some role in hot flash mediation, which is why 5-HTP can help lessen them in some women. Clonidine also lessens hot flashes for many women; but the most effective treatment is estrogen, which stops them completely - but again, no one knows exactly why.


-Linda
  #4  
Unread 08-20-2009, 06:11 PM
Re: Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

Ya know, Linda, this actually makes a little sense to me... at least the part about the body trying to "cool" itself. I've noticed at night, following a horrendous night sweat, I actually feel cold enough to pull the covers up to my neck. Go figure! Maybe I'm feeling the residual effects of the "cooling"? Then again, maybe it's because I'm all wet and clammy!
  #5  
Unread 09-01-2009, 03:51 PM
Re: Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

To add to the discussion, what is the difference between hot flashes and night sweats? I know night sweats happen when sleeping but is it basically a hot flash that lasts longer? I had night sweats for a couple weeks after my surgery but they stopped and then I started having hot flashes. I also used to get hot flashes when I was on the placebo week of BCPs for HRT. I think I prefer the hot flashes but can't understand what's happening that's different.
  #6  
Unread 09-02-2009, 03:55 PM
Re: Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

I can't say for sure, Catarina, but I honestly believe hot flashes and night sweats are the same thing -- just one happens at night. I know I sweat like crazy -- day OR night! The perspiration just runs down my face in droplets. It's embarrassing!
  #7  
Unread 09-02-2009, 06:01 PM
Re: Physiological question, what happens to the body when one has a hot flash?

After being back in the hospital for a week starting 6 days postop (had an abscess), I watched my temperature very carefully - taking it several times a day. I did notice that during a hot flash, my body temperature dropped - sometimes into the 96's. My normal has always been close 98.4 to 99. So there may be something to the cooling theory. Now that I am on HRT - Vivelle Dot, the hot flashes and night sweats have stopped.

Hope you get relief.
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