Curing hot flushes with Nerve injection

Meaning : Hot flushes are a common symptom of the menopause that affects around 80% of women all over the world. These are a sudden sensation of intense heat or sweating in the upper body. It can start in the neck, face & chest before spreading upwards or downwards. Hot flushes tend to last for five to ten minutes & typically persist for two to three years. These occur when there is an increase in amount of blood flowing to the skin.

Causes of hot flushes : The exact cause of hot flushes is not known. One theory is that the drop in level of estrogens that occurs around menopause affects the hypothalamus, which is part of brain involved in the control of body temperature. Another theory is that changes in other brain chemicals like serotonin may cause hot flushes. Some women find that hot flushes can be triggered by stress, alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods, so simply cutting back may help.

Treatment for hot flushes : For some women the flushes and sweating can be very distressing, affecting many aspects of life, including work and sleep. A wide range of treatments are available including HRT which works by increasing the level of estrogens. But at the same time it has been linked to many side effects such as bloating, weight gain, headache & more seriously, an increased risk of breast cancer.

New research & treatment : According to a new treatment an injection in the neck might ease the symptoms of hot flushes. It blocks nerve signals involved in temperature regulation & early results show that it can be highly successful. This treatment is known as stellate ganglion nerve block. It is part of the sympathetic nervous system which helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure & breathing rate. It also causes blood vessels to narrow & is involved in sweating & temperature regulation. It's thought that blocking the action of these nerves prevents the rise in skin temperature.

Clinical trials : In one clinical trial, it is found that the number of hot flushes women experienced in a week was cut by 90 % after a single injection. The women also had a similar reduction in night awakenings, a consequence of hot flushes. In a second clinical trial, it is found that the frequency of hot flushes and sleep disturbance in women with breast cancer decreased by about 90 % after 12 weeks. How long the treatment is effective varied from patient to patient. It is thought that some patients might need more injections to provide a longer-term effect.

Procedure & expert’s View : During the treatment, which takes around five minutes, a local anesthetic is injected into the nerves with the help of X-ray guidance. Patients are then being asked to keep a hot-flush and symptom diary for seven weeks. Sanjay Vyas, consultant gynecologist at Southmead Hospital in Bristol says, “Hot flushes affect millions of women, and HRT, which is effective, does carry some risk. Anything that provides relief from hot flushes but does not carry risk would be welcome.”


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