Cold flashes during menopause can seem unusual because women often hear of hot flashes as one of the most talked about symptoms. However, cold flashes during menopause are a symptom that some women will experience. While cold flashes are most likely the result of the hormonal changes that occur during this transitional period, there are other possibilities for this symptom. This article explores what could be causing your cold flashes.
Cold flashes during menopause can be a normal symptom of menopause.
The hypothalamus in the brain controls body temperature regulation that responds to the rise and fall of estrogen.
Other causes for experiencing cold flashes besides a hormonal imbalance might be worth discussing with your healthcare provider.
Quick overview of menopause
Each month, women naturally undergo cycles preparing their bodies for possible pregnancies. These cycles are called menstrual cycles, more commonly known as periods. As women get older, the ability to conceive and have children declines and women's bodies begin to prepare and transition for this change.
This transition is known as perimenopause. Although every person is different, perimenopause usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55. This transitional time often brings many symptoms, from hot flashes to night sweats and monthly cycle changes.
The body releases hormones that control menstruation. These hormones are estrogen and progesterone, which signal the body to prepare for pregnancy. As the women's body begins to stop preparing for pregnancy, it will start to slow the production of these hormones, causing the symptoms of menopause.
Possible causes of menopause cold flashes
Most of the time, when women talk about menopause, they will say they experience hot flashes. So when a cold flash happens, it may come as a surprise. It is normal to get cold flashes during menopause. The fluctuations of the hormone estrogen are likely causing these cold flashes.
A region of the brain called the hypothalamus regulates the body's internal temperature. In the hypothalamus are receptors that respond to estrogen. When there is more estrogen floating around in the bloodstream, it will then increase the amount of estrogen that attaches to these receptors.
The body then responds by causing the veins to dilate and become bigger, allowing more blood flow and increasing the internal temperature. This vasodilation leads to hot flashes and sweating as the body tries to cool itself down, sometimes followed by cold chills. The feeling of being cold the next second after a hot flash might be the result of your body reacting to the sweat in an attempt to cool down. Some women might experience cold flashes more than hot flashes.
Other possible causes for cold flashes
While estrogen fluctuations are the most reasonable cause for cold flashes during menopause, there may be other culprits for these symptoms.
Consider these other explanations for cold flashes:
- Anxiety and panic disorder. Perhaps from an overactive automatic response from our bodies when in danger, panic attacks can bring on symptoms like sweating, chills, and trembling.
- Infections. Fevers happen when your body comes into contact with an organism that causes an infection and responds by increasing internal temperatures. Chills usually follow with shivering in response to the temperature changes.
- Smoking. There are nicotine receptors in the hypothalamus, and when you smoke, your body will react to this stimulation mimicking symptoms of hot flashes.
- Low blood sugar. Symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, can often cause cold sweats or shivering in response to releasing hormones that result in a flight or fight-type response for survival.
- Other diseases. Certain diseases may cause you to be more intolerant to cold temperatures. Conditions like hypothyroidism can make you more cold-intolerant, leading to chills and cold flashes.
There could be various reasons for cold flashes. While most are non-concerning, a follow-up with your healthcare provider is warranted to ensure all body systems are functioning as they should be.
Menopausal cold flashes: Tips for coping
Changes in your body temperature during this stressful time of menopause can impact a woman's quality of life. Try these measures for dealing with cold flashes during menopause:
- Dress in layers so you can easily add or remove items when hot or cold.
- Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeinated beverages because these could aggravate symptoms of menopause.
- If you smoke cigarettes or vape, try to stop this habit to reduce symptoms.
- Try meditation to help ease anxiety symptoms.
- Track when you experience cold flashes as there may be some common elements that bring them on more often.
- Talk with your doctor about non-hormonal medications that can help treat hot flashes for example probiotics for menopause.
When to seek medical advice
Knowing when to seek out medical attention can be problematic, especially with the costs of healthcare rising. You should contact your healthcare provider when your symptoms become bothersome and affect your daily activities. When you experience unusual symptoms, contact your healthcare provider to schedule a physical exam and blood work.
While cold flashes during menopause can seem completely abnormal, they are possible during this transition. Although there could be other potential explanations for these cold flashes, the most likely reason is changes in circulating estrogen during this time.
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- National Institute of Mental Health. Panic disorder: when fear overwhelms.
- Obstetrics and Gynecology. Cigarette smoking, androgen levels, and hot flashes in midlife women.
- MSD Manual. Hypothyroidism.
- American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).
- National Institute on Aging. Hot flashes: what can I do?