The exact mechanism of a hot flush, also known as a hot flash, is not fully understood. However, it is believed to involve several factors, including changes in hormone levels, specifically estrogen, and the body's thermoregulatory system. Here's a general overview of the proposed mechanism:
1. Hormonal changes: During menopause or other situations of hormonal imbalance, there is a decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen plays a role in regulating body temperature, and its fluctuations can affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature.
2. Hypothalamus involvement: The hypothalamus acts as the body's internal thermostat and helps maintain a stable core body temperature. It responds to changes in hormone levels and external stimuli. In the case of a hot flush, it is thought that the hypothalamus becomes more sensitive to slight changes in temperature.
3. Vasodilation: When a hot flush occurs, the hypothalamus may perceive a slight increase in body temperature, even though it is within the normal range. In response, it triggers a cascade of events that leads to vasodilation, or widening of the blood vessels, particularly those near the skin's surface.
4. Increased blood flow: Vasodilation allows for increased blood flow to the skin, which helps dissipate heat. As blood vessels near the skin expand, they bring warm blood to the surface, causing a sensation of heat and redness in the face, neck, and chest—the areas most commonly affected by hot flushes.
5. Sweating: Along with vasodilation, the body may initiate sweating as a mechanism to cool down. The sweat glands become more active, leading to perspiration and evaporation of sweat from the skin's surface. This can contribute to feelings of heat and subsequent cooling sensations as sweat evaporates.
6. Rapid heart rate: During a hot flush, the body's response to vasodilation and increased blood flow can lead to an increased heart rate, palpitations, or feelings of anxiety.
Specific triggers and experiences of hot flushes can vary among individuals. The intensity, frequency, and duration of hot flushes can also differ. Some people may have mild and infrequent episodes, while others may experience more severe and frequent hot flushes that significantly impact their daily lives.
If you are experiencing bothersome hot flushes or have concerns about your symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance, discuss treatment options, and help manage the symptoms effectively.