A flush is a brief episode of facial redness and warmth. Many people have a facial flush (redness and hot feeling) when they are embarrassed and this is a completely normal characteristic, particularly in women with fine skin. Abnormal flushes may occur occasionally or may be almost constant.
The menopause is a very common cause of sudden unexpected flushing, when sex hormone levels surge instead of being released at in a very slowly varying pattern. The woman usually feels the flush far more than others can see it, as the skin in women of this age has usually thickened somewhat over the years, particularly if they live in a sunny climate.
Sex hormone treatment can also cause abnormal flushing, particularly if the dosage is incorrect.
Excessive indulgence in alcohol can cause obvious flushing that may persist for several hours after over imbibing. Repeated excessive use of alcohol can result in liver and blood vessel damage that causes a persistent red face that is not specifically flushing.
A fever of almost any cause can cause flushing that lasts for hours or days.
Other causes of flushing may include:
- an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism),
- a severe allergy reaction (anaphylaxis),
- Cushing syndrome (caused by over production in the body, or over use, of cortisone),
- phaeochromocytoma (tumour of the adrenal glands that causes very high blood pressure),
- Pepper syndrome (a cancer of the adrenal glands),
- diseases of the hormone controlling pituitary gland in the centre of the brain,
- impaired drainage of blood from the head caused by narrowing of the major veins in the neck or upper chest,
- the carcinoid syndrome (characterised by diarrhoea, palpitations and wheezing).