What to Know About Diabetes and Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are a symptom that most people associate with menopause. However, diabetes and hot flashes also have a complex relationship. In fact, research has shown that women who experience hot flashes are more likely to develop diabetes later in life. Furthermore, some diabetics experience hot flashes as a part of their condition. In this article, we explore the link between diabetes and hot flashes. Read on to learn more.
How Diabetes Affects People
Diabetes is a common endocrine (hormonal) condition. People with diabetes are unable to make enough of the hormone insulin, or their cells are resistant to its effects. Insulin is responsible for maintaining the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Therefore, a diabetic’s blood sugar can easily become too high or too low.
There are two different types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition and tends to affect younger people and children. People with this form of diabetes cannot make any insulin and need to use daily injections.
Type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life and is associated with obesity. People with this form of diabetes can make some insulin, but their bodies cannot use it effectively. Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their condition through diet and exercise. Others will need medication or insulin injections.
Hot Flashes and Other Diabetes Symptoms
Diabetes can cause a variety of different symptoms, including hot flashes. Some of the most common diabetes symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst
- Needing to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Weight loss
- Loss of muscle mass
- Itchy genitals
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Slow wound healing
- Blurred vision
Diabetes can also lead to long-term complications if the blood sugar remains too high for too long. These complications include damage to the blood vessels and nervous system. This damage to the nerves is one factor that may contribute to diabetic hot flashes. Let’s take a closer look.
What Causes Hot Flashes in People With Diabetes?
To remain healthy, the body needs to maintain a constant temperature. This process relies on the nervous system detecting changes in the external environment.
If the nervous system detects a drop in temperature, it sends a message to the hypothalamus region of the brain. The hypothalamus then triggers a series of reactions to raise the body temperature. These include shivering and the body hair standing on end to trap warm air.
Likewise, if the nervous system detects a rise in temperature, the hypothalamus must trigger reactions to cool the body down. The primary way it does this is by sending messages to the skin telling it to release sweat.
However, if the nervous system is not functioning well, these messages can become confused. The brain may think that the body is too hot, even when it is not. This is why diabetics with nerve damage may be prone to excess sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis. Furthermore, sweating can be a sign that the blood sugar has fallen too low. In this case, it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, irritability and reduced concentration.
These effects may be even more pronounced in menopausal women who are already having hot flashes. Fluctuating hormone levels can play havoc with the blood sugar, making it more difficult to regulate.
Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of diabetes. One 2017 study suggested a significant link between the two conditions. The authors estimate that women who suffer from hot flashes during menopause are 18% more likely to go on to develop diabetes.
How to Prevent Hot Flashes in Diabetes
Whether you are menopausal, diabetic, or both, there are several things you can do to prevent hot flashes and sweating:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Eat a balanced diet and exercise daily
- Eat regularly to prevent low blood sugar
- Avoid triggers such as spicy food, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, hot drinks and MSG
- Practice relaxation techniques to keep stress to a minimum
- Keep a fan handy in case you become too hot
- Use a fan or air conditioner to keep your bedroom cool at night
- Invest in “cooling” pillows and sheets
- Wear loose fitting clothing
- Choose natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, or bamboo
- Wash and change your clothes regularly
Keep a diary of when your hot flashes occur to identify your personal triggers. You can then avoid these situations and hopefully prevent hot flashes.
Diabetes and Hot Flashes Treatment
In addition to taking steps to prevent hot flashes, you may require treatment from your physician. There are several options available.
If your hot flashes are due to fluctuating blood sugar, you may need medication to help control this. There are many different diabetes medications available. Talk to your physician about which is most suitable for you.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
If your hot flashes are related to the menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could be the answer. Many women use HRT to boost the body’s estrogen levels as they fall. It could also help with other menopausal symptoms like low libido and vaginal dryness.
However, some experts believe there is a link between HRT and certain types of cancer. Therefore, it is important to research the subject carefully and decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to regulate the nervous system and prevent sweating. These medications work by blocking the action of a chemical called acetylcholine. Side effects include dry mouth, dry eyes, blurred vision and constipation.
Botox injections may help to relieve excess sweating under the armpits. Side effects include pain at the injection site, headaches and flu-like symptoms.
There are several natural remedies that may help with hot flashes, although evidence to support their use is limited. Some popular options include black cohosh, soy isoflavones and acupuncture.
Talk to your physician before using these remedies or any other treatments for diabetes and hot flashes.