Believe it or not, some men can be just as troubled by hot flashes as some women.
For women, hot flashes usually come in association with menopause. Menopause is when estrogen levels drop in a woman’s body, causing all sorts of changes.
For men, hot flashes are associated with androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. Prostate cell growth is stimulated by testosterone. If you reduce hormone levels or block hormone action in the body, it can help make radiation therapy for prostate cancer more effective. As much as eighty percent of men who receive androgen deprivation therapy end up experiencing hot flashes — and it seems to be tied in to the low testosterone levels.
Regardless of gender, hot flashes feel the same. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of warmth or flushing that is usually most intense over the head and torso. The skin may get red and you may sweat. Hot flashes are most common at night, but can be experienced at any time of day. Most hot flashes are relatively quick, and are over in about four minutes. Intensity varies from person to person — some may have infrequent and mild hot flashes; others may flash as many as ten times per day and come with feelings of anxiety and irritability or heart palpitations.
Most women get over their hot flashes within a year or so, but some are troubled for years. Men who experience hot flashes during temporary androgen deprivation therapy get over them within a few months of stopping treatment. Men on permanent androgen deprivation therapy may never get over the problem — more than forty percent of men on permanent therapy experienced hot flashes for more than eight years.
Treatments vary for men with hot flashes. Some studies found good results with female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) — more than eighty percent of men in the estrogen study found relief, but it came with breast swelling and/or tenderness. The progesterone study also had good results — up to ninety percent found relief from hot flashes — but side effects like bloating and weight gain. Doctors have also had success treating hot flashes in men with antidepressants and antiseizure medication.
For most men, hot flashes are a sympathetic experience only. But if you’ve had androgen deprivation therapy, hot flashes can be a very real problem!