The most common causes of hot flashes and night sweats are hormonal imbalances. This can occur with things like pregnancy and menopause, or less commonly, premenstrual syndrome. Sometimes hormonal imbalances can also occur with certain medical conditions, such as high fever or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
Hot flashes and night sweats are normally characterized by a sudden feeling of heat, even when the weather or indoor temperatures do not warrant it, as well as waking up in the night with intense sweating. Each person may experience these things to varying degrees, with some days being very severe and other days with few or no occurrences at all. Many times hot flashes pass within several minutes.
Most often, hot flashes and night sweats are due to the rise and fall of certain hormones naturally found in the body. Many women experience these things during menopause as estrogen levels drop dramatically. They can be combated with hormone replacement therapy and certain other treatments. Sometimes pregnant women also experience similar symptoms, but they normally subside after giving birth.
In some cases, hot flashes and night sweats may be caused by a serious medical condition. Certain infections can cause cold sweats at night as well as intense heat due to fever. This is almost always a fleeting condition which can be cured with medications or by allowing the illness to run its course. Fever can usually be lowered using medication, although if this doesn’t work, a doctor should be consulted for further advice.
HIV infection may also cause hot flashes and night sweats in some patients. This can occur to a lesser extent upon contraction of the disease, as well as later on as a primary symptom. There is generally no treatment for this condition when related to HIV. Patients should sleep using absorbent bedclothes which will keep moisture away from the body. It may also be a good idea to avoid clothing that will stick to the skin, such as silk or satin.
The main treatment usually involves treating the underlying condition. When the condition cannot be treated, patients may find ways to cope with discomfort by taking cool showers throughout the day and at night, wearing cool clothing that absorbs moisture, and drinking plenty of water. Occasionally, sweating may occur during waking hours, so a deodorant or antiperspirant may help. In very severe cases, the sweat glands can be removed or blocked to reduce sweating symptoms.