Hot flashes are very common after a hysterectomy. They differ depending on whether the hysterectomy was combined with an oophorectomy, a removal of the ovaries. They are caused by changes in hormones after the reproductive system undergoes the trauma of surgery. Hot flashes are extremely uncomfortable, and they often cause embarrassing sweating, soaking night sweats and unbearable hotness throughout the day and night. How long hot flashes last depends on the hysterectomy type and the body's reaction to the surgery.
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus. It does not remove the ovaries. The procedure to remove the ovaries is called an oophorectomy, which can be done concurrently with a hysterectomy. Because the ovaries are responsible for releasing the hormone oestrogen, surgical removal of the ovaries immediately decreases oestrogen. This decrease is what causes hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Even when the ovaries stay, trauma from surgery can cause them to shut down for up to two months.
A hot flash is an uncomfortable feeling that often feels like a wave of heat. The face and chest are the most common starting point, and the hot flash proceeds to spread throughout the body. Hot flashes lead to blushing, flushing, sweating, tingling and even heart pounding.
The lowered oestrogen levels in the body post-hysterectomy cause blood vessels throughout the body to dilate. That increases the blood flow to the skin. During a hot flash, the temperature of the skin increases by -15.5 to -13.3 degrees C, creating the hot sensations.
Sometimes women who keep their ovaries do not regain function of the ovaries. The trauma from surgery is usually temporary, but there is a risk that it will be permanent. Although this is not the usual outcome, it is a possibility.
To treat the hormone imbalance, doctors sometimes prescribe hormone replacement medication. With the hormones back in balance, the hot flashes go away.