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What are Hot Flashes?

By  , Expert Content
Feb 18, 2012
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

Menopause can cause several physical and psychological symptoms. Hot flashes are the most common symptom experienced by women during menopause and perimenopause. Hot flash is also called a hot flush. It is sensation of heat experienced by a woman in which, she may have other symptoms such as red, flushed face and sweating. When hot flashes occur with sweating at night they are called night sweats. At night hot flashes may interfere with sleep.

What causes hot flashes?

The exact cause of hot flashes is not known. Many experts think that it is probably caused because of very high levels of gonadotrophins as the ovaries fail. Hot flashes are not experienced by men, as there is not a similar rapid decline in male hormones.

Hot flashes are experienced by about 50 per cent of women in the menopausal age. Most women who experience hot flashes will have them for about 1 to 2 years. Some women may not experience hot flashes all together. But some can have them for five years or more. A hot flash usually lasts for a couple of minutes. However in some women the symptoms may last up to 30 minutes. They may happen at any time of the day, even several times in an hour (as many as 20 times per day). Most women have hot flashes 2 to 4 hours apart.

Risk factors

Factors which increase the risk of severe symptoms in hot flashes are:

  • Low bodyweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle (women who do little or no exercise or any other physical activity)
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Race (it more common and severe in black women and less common in Chinese women).
  • Abrupt or early menopause
  • Oophorectomy (surgical removal of ovaries)
  • Menopause induced with chemotherapy, radiation or drugs.


Symptoms

Symptoms experienced by a woman who has hot flash include:

  • sudden feeling of warmth spreading through the upper body and face (the warmth sensation usually moves up the waist, chest, neck, and face).
  • flushing of face (may be a red, blotchy appearance)
  • some women may experience sensations of nausea, suffocation, or even dizziness
  • increase in heart rate
  • sudden sweating (may be in cold weather or without any physical activity) mostly on the upper body
  • chilled feeling or feeling cold as the hot flash subsides (sweating after feeling the heat during hot flash cools you down, and makes you experience rapid chills all over your body)


Treatment

Hot flashes become less severe as time passes (even without treatment). Women who do not have bothersome symptoms may need no treatment at all.  However if the symptoms interfere with your life consult a doctor. Many effective treatments are available for management of hot flashes. Treatment options for hot flashes include:

  • self care measures
  • hormone therapy
  • other medications such as antidepressants, gabapentin, clonidine
  • complementary and alternative treatments
  • Phytoestrogens.


Self care to improve symptoms of hot flashes: Lifestyle changes that can probably help to improve symptoms of hot flashes and enhance your general well-being include eating healthy, doing exercises regularly, quitting smoking and alcohol.

Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone is the most effective treatment for hot flashes. It helps to relieve the symptoms of the hot flashes by correcting the hormone levels.

 

 

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