Hot flashes usually are considered to be a symptom of menopause, but there are many other causes of hot flashes as well. In fact, hot flashes can occur in women not yet old enough to undergo menopause, and they even can occur in men under certain conditions. Some of these causes of hot flashes are related to hormone levels in the body or to specific illness, but sometimes, the cause of hot flashes is an external element that the sufferer might not immediately associate with his or her discomfort.
Causes of hot flashes in women are most often related to hormonal imbalances. Lowered estrogen levels or heightened progesterone levels in relation to estrogen can lead to hot flashes. The reduction of estrogen in the system during menopause brings on this most common type of hot flash, but hot flashes also can occur during pregnancy, after removal of the ovaries and during treatments for certain kinds of cancer. Women experiencing hot flashes who feel that they are not undergoing menopause should consult with a doctor to determine their underlying cause.
Testosterone levels also help regulate the occurrence of hot flashes. Causes of hot flashes in men, then, often are related to fluctuations in this masculine hormone. Men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer often experience hot flashes, because the medications used in this treatment are one of the major causes of hot flashes in men. Aging also can contribute to lower testosterone levels, leading to hot flashes. Men who have had a testicle removed because of cancer or other conditions also can experience hot flashes because of lowered testosterone levels.
Women younger than menopausal age also can experience hot flashes. Medical causes of hot flashes in young women can include certain medications, including treatments for breast cancer. Ovarian problems also can cause hot flashes, as can thyroid abnormalities. The underlying causes of hot flashes in younger women can be indicative of serious medical issues, so consultation with a medical professional is important. If the causes of hot flashes are from thyroid or ovarian issues, medication or other treatment usually can provide relief.
Nonmedical causes of hot flashes can be dietary or environmental. Both men and women can experience hot flashes because of anxiety disorders or panic attacks. Other causes of hot flashes include smoking, caffeine, diet pills or even eating very spicy food. These types of hot flashes usually dissipate quickly, unlike hormonally induced hot flashes, which can continue for several hours in some cases.