Hot Flashes FAQs

While most women hear about hot flashes prior to menopause, this common symptom still catches many women off guard when it strikes. Fortunately, by better understanding hot flashes, women can find the best treatment options for their symptoms. Continue reading to find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about hot flashes.

Q: What Are Hot Flashes?

A: Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Also called "hot flushes," hot flashes are episodes of intense and sudden heat that come with or without warning and often last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of hot flashes.

Q: What Are the Symptoms of Hot Flashes?

A: While each woman's experience with hot flashes varies, women who have hot flashes around the time of menopause find that these episodes often follow a consistent pattern.

The following are the most commonly experienced symptoms. It is possible to have only one sign or several at the same time.

  • Perspiration
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse
  • Flushing
  • Cold chills
  • Feelings of suffocation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Aura
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Weakness

Some women are at risk for more intense and longer-lasting hot flashes. Women who go through medical or surgical menopause and those taking certain breast cancer drugs are likely to experience more intense menopause symptoms, including hot flashes.

Q: How Common Are Hot Flashes?

A: Since it is the most common menopause symptom, many women will experience hot flashes at some point during the menopausal transition. In fact, it is estimated that 75 - 85% of women will experience postmenopausal hot flashes. Approximately 45% of perimenopausal women will develop this symptom prior to the cessation of menstruation.

Q: When Does a Woman Typically Begin to Experience Hot Flashes?

A: Many women begin to develop hot flashes during perimenopause, or the years leading to menopause. Perimenopause frequently begins in a woman's 40s or 50s. Of those affected, most menopausal women will begin to have hot flash episodes at least one or two years before their last period.

Q: How Long Do Women Usually Experience Hot Flashes?

A: While each woman's experience of hot flashes is unique, the average duration of hot flashes is about two years. That said, it is normal to have hot flashes lasting anywhere from six months to 15 years.

Q: How Long Does a Hot Flash Episode Last?

A: A typical hot flash episode lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. However, it can take up to thirty minutes for a woman to feel normal again after a hot flash, especially with stronger and more intense hot flashes.

Q: How Frequently Do Hot Flashes Occur?

A: The frequency of hot flashes depends on the individual woman. Some women experience hot flashes only periodically, though others can have up to 20 episodes each day. Only about 25% of menopausal women experience severe and very frequent hot flashes during menopause.

Hot flashes are most likely to occur between six o'clock and eight o'clock in both the morning and the evening. This is because estrogen levels appear to be lowest at these times in many women. Continue reading to learn about the relationship between estrogen and hot flashes.

Q: What Causes Hot Flashes?

A: Changes in estrogen production during menopause are the main reason for hot flashes during this life transition. This hormone appears to have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature.

When the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen during perimenopause, the hypothalamus incorrectly senses that the body is overheating and begins to launch a physiological cooling response, which menopausal women experience as hot flashes.

Q: Can Other Conditions Cause Hot Flashes?

A: Yes. In addition to menopause-related hormonal changes, some medical conditions can also cause hot flashes. In some cases, it is not always safe to assume that hot flashes are caused by menopause. This is particularly true for women who are not likely going through menopause or for those who have other unusual symptoms.

Diseases

  • Panic disorder
  • Infections and fevers
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Obesity

Medications

  • Raloxifene (osteoporosis drug)
  • Tamoxifen (breast cancer drug)
  • Gonadotropin analogues

Q: When Should a Woman Consult a Doctor about Hot Flashes?

A: Any women with questions or concerns about hot flashes should consult their physicians. Approximately 10 - 15% of women experience hot flashes severe enough to warrant medical attention.

Women who are not likely entering menopause and those who are experiencing other strange symptoms should talk to a doctor to rule out other causes of hot flashes.

Q: How Can a Woman Manage Hot Flashes?

A: Luckily, several simple measures can successfully reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Often, the key to managing hot flashes is identifying and avoiding the factors that trigger an episode.

Such hot flashes triggers include warm environments, constricting clothing, hot or spicy drinks and foods, stress, anxiety, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.

Stress reduction, exercise, and a healthy diet can also go a long way toward managing hot flashes during menopause.

If these management techniques are ineffective, there are further steps that can be taken to rid one's self of hot flashes and live in comfort once again. Keep reading to learn more about these treatment options.

Q: Can Hot Flashes Be Treated?

A: Yes. Treating the root problem of hormonal imbalance can help to reduce and even stop hot flashes during menopause. Doctors recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach to treating hot flashes. Fortunately, a number of safe and natural remedies can successfully treat hot flashes.

Q: What Are The Best Ways to Cope with Hot Flashes?

A: Three approaches can be considered for treating hot flashes: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative remedies, and (3) pharmaceutical options. Most experts recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if symptoms persist. Click on treatments for hot flashes to discover the best route to relief.

Postmenopausal Hot Flashes

Unfortunately the end of menopause doesn't necessarily mean the end of its symptoms. Some of the transitions more disruptive side effects can persist well into a woman's later life. There are however, techniques available which can ease the experience.

Too Young for Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are by far the most common symptom of menopause, and they have come to be strongly associated with the transition. However, younger women who are not menopausal may also experience hot flashes. Although rare, there are several reasons younger women may experience hot flashes. Click here for more information.

Sources:
  • National Health Service UK. (2015). Hot flushes: how to cope. Retrieved April 27, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/hot-flushes.aspx
  • Sikon, A. & Thacker, H. (2004). Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 71(7).
  • Weir, E. (2004). Hot flashes ... in January. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 170(1), 39-40. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC305309/