Difference between night sweats and hot flashes

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Hot flashes
Hot flashes are a feeling of warmth and redness that predominantly occurs during menopause. Around 75% of women experience hot flashes as menopausal symptoms. It causes profuse sweating and at times may even result in nausea. The severity of hot flash varies from woman to woman and lasts for about two minutes to an hour.

Though hot flashes are absolutely normal, in extreme cases they may interfere with everyday activities. In such cases, it is best to lie down for a while in a cool room and hydrate yourself by drinking water and juice. It is also extremely important to remember not to smoke when affected by hot flashes. Doctors believe that hot flashes during menopause are a result of hormonal changes that occur in the body during such times.

Apart from the hormonal changes there are many agents that can trigger hot flashes. These include stress, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing and heat. It has thus been advised to always wear thin clothes and cover yourself in bed sheets that allow your skin to breathe.

During a hot flash the symptoms experienced include; a sudden feeling of warmth spread through your skin, redness of skin accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, profuse perspiration and a feeling of chillness as the episode subsides.

Hot flashes are also very common in women with breast cancer and can be cured with the help of medication. Hot flushes and hot flashes are often considered as two different things but in fact mean the same. Changes in the external environment may also lead to severe hot flash episodes in both men and women.

For women who have severe episodes of hot flashes as menopausal symptoms, there are various methods of treatment. The most effective method of treatment is injecting estrogen into the body. This significantly reduces the number of hot flash incidences experienced. This method is commonly referred to as hormonal therapy. Antidepressants such as Venlafaxine, Paroxetine and Fluoxetine may also be administered to patients suffering from frequent episodes of this condition. General exercises and relaxation breathing have also been known to reduce severity and frequency of hot flash episodes.

Night Sweats
Night sweats, as the name suggests, is profuse perspiration that occurs during the night. The patient may wake up drenched in sweat; so much so that they’d have to change their bed sheets and clothes. This however, shouldn’t be confused with sweating due to a hot environment. A person suffering from this symptom can get drenched in her/his sweat in minutes. Sometimes, their body temperature might be extremely high as well.

Women undergoing menopause usually experience night sweats and this is normal. In some instances, this can be a symptom of something more severe like cancer. If the patient is ill as well, night sweats will be worsened because of it. Depending on the reason for night sweats, the treatment varies. Both night sweats and hot flashes have very similar treatment methods.
How and why do night sweats occur? When the body crosses its threshold temperature, it uses sweat to reduce it. This is a mechanism to maintain thermal equilibrium. However, in case of some diseases or state of the body, the internal temperature increases drastically, and hence, so does the sweating.

Night sweats can occur as a symptom of cancer, autoimmune diseases, heart conditions, depression, due to usage of some drug, menopause; basically most conditions that involve hormones. As the hormonal levels change drastically, the biochemical reactions of the body produce more heat. This causes the abnormal increase in body temperature.
Antidepressants also create hormonal imbalance. This occurs in men as well. In this case, night sweat is a symptom of the action of the drug.

As mentioned earlier, night sweats are only symptoms of another problem. More often than not, they are accompanied by other symptoms. Hot flashes are the most common.
Since increased body temperature is the key word, the best way to tackle this is to bring the temperature down. This can be done by taking a cold bath or drinking some water. The only advice anyone would give for treating this with complete confidence is to visit a doctor.

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