Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms experienced by women around the time of menopause. In fact, approximately half of all perimenopausal women and 75 to 85% of all postmenopausal women experience hot flashes.
While the onset, duration, frequency, and severity of hot flashes varies greatly between women, hot flashes often begin one or two years before a woman's last period and can last anywhere from six months to fifteen years.
Hot flashes are caused by hormonal fluctuations that occur during the menopausal transition. Fortunately, treating this underlying hormonal imbalance naturally and making simple lifestyle changes can significantly help a woman manage this symptom. Continue reading to learn more about hot flashes, their symptoms, causes, management, and treatment.
About Hot Flashes
What Are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes, also called "hot flushes", are a vasomotor symptom of menopause. This means that hot flashes can disrupt the normal functioning of the vascular and motor systems of the body, causing intense heat, perspiration, and other symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
The duration and frequency of hot flashes varies from woman to woman. Hot flashes can occur at any time of the day or night, though they are often called night sweats when they happen during sleeping hours.
Women with menopause-related hot flashes will usually experience a consistent and unique pattern of symptoms. Some women experience mild symptoms of hot flashes infrequently, while others experience more severe symptoms multiple times each day.
Signs and Symptoms of Hot Flashes
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of hot flashes:
• Sudden, intense feelings of heat. In the face, neck, arms, torso, and sometimes the whole body.
• Rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse. Including heart palpitations.
• Flushing or reddened face and neck, particularly in lighter skinned women.
• Perspiration. Ranging from mild to profuse.
• Cold chills. Often follow hot flashes, though sometimes women only experience the chill.
• Sleep disturbances. Are characteristic of hot flashes that occur at night, which are also known as night sweats. Estrogen levels are often lowest at night, which is why women often experience nocturnal hot flashes.
• Other Symptoms. Nausea, dizziness, anxiety, and headaches.
While each woman will experience the symptoms of hot flashes in a pattern that is unique to her, some women are at a greater risk for more severe and prolonged hot flashes. Women taking the breast cancer treatment drug tamoxifen may experience more severe and prolonged hot flashes. Additionally, women who go through rapid menopause will often experience hot flashes more severely and for a longer duration.
Click on the following link to read more information about hot flashes, or continue reading below to learn more about the causes of hot flashes.
This article explains about prolonged hot flashes, such as ember flashes which last longer than normal. Also explains the connection between hot flashes and tamoxifen, a medication used to treat breast cancer. Women who are suffering from this symptom have many treatment options available to them.
Explains that a recent study found a connection between hot flashes that occur in early in menopause. Healthy benefits for women who experienced hot flashes early during menopause. Those who did not experience hot flashes at all, or experienced them later, did not show this decreased risk.
Causes of Hot Flashes
The most common cause of hot flashes in menopausal women is changing levels of estrogen in the body. Diminished amounts of estrogen have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling appetite, sex hormones, sleep, and body temperature.
Lowered levels of estrogen confuse the hypothalamus, causing it to inaccurately sense that the body is overheating. This provokes an internal chain of reactions that women experience as "hot flashes".
In addition to these completely normal hormonal causes of hot flashes, other medical conditions can also cause hot flashes.
Other Causes of Hot Flashes
Certain medical conditions and medications can sometimes cause a person to experience hot flashes. For this reason, women for whom menopause is unlikely or women with other unexplained symptoms should consult a doctor to rule out these other potential causes of hot flashes.
Diseases that can cause hot flashes:
• Panic disorder
• Thyroid disease
Medications that can cause hot flashes:
• Raloxifene (osteoporosis drug)
• Tamoxifen (cancer drug)
• Gonadotropin analogues (nafarelin)
Click on the following link to read more information about the causes of hot flashes, or keep reading to learn about managing hot flashes through simple measures, including the avoidance of common hot flash triggers.
Lists the other symptoms that may accompany hot flashes during menopause. These include headaches, fatigue and irritability, lowered sexual desire, and mood swings as well as other physical and emotional symptoms. Explains how these symptoms are interconnected and suggests various ways to alleviate them, ranging from lifestyle changes to herbal supplements.
Discusses the connection between hot flashes and consuming hot and spicy foods. Menopausal women who regularly experience hot flashes should limit or cut out spicy foods completely. Also makes note of other common dietary triggers for hot flashes, such as foods containing refined sugar and caffeine.
Managing Hot Flashes
Thankfully, women who experience hot flashes during menopause have several ways to manage hot flashes in order to reduce their frequency and/or severity. In many cases, simple steps can be taken throughout the day to prevent or allay hot flashes. Also, avoiding the common triggers of hot flashes is another important way to combat them.
Simple daily changes that can greatly help a menopausal woman manage hot flashes include:
• Considering air conditioning, ceiling and floor fans, and even small personal handheld fans.
• A woman can also manage hot flashes by arriving to meetings and other events early.
• Keeping ice water or another cold beverage on hand during the day and night.
• Taking a cool shower before bed.
• Using cotton sheets and avoiding silk or synthetics.
• Keeping a cold pack under or near the pillow and turning the pillow often can also help keep a woman cool and minimize hot flashes.
In addition to making these simple changes, avoiding hot flash triggers can significantly help a woman manage hot flashes.
• Warm environments (i.e. hot weather, saunas ).
• Heat makers (e.g. fireplaces, hair dryers, heaters)
• Stress and anxiety.
• Hot and spicy foods and drinks.
• Smoking cigarettes.
• Overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
• Diet pills.
Making minor daily changes and avoiding triggers can make a huge difference for many menopausal women who are trying to manage hot flashes. While these measures often help to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, they are unable to treat the root of the problem, which is a hormonal imbalance.
Click on the following link to read more information on managing hot flashes, or continue reading below to learn more about the treatments for hot flashes.
Shows easy ways a woman can manage hot flashes. Explains how certain substances and situations, called triggers, can cause a hot flash to happen. These can include: alcohol, caffeine, and diet pills. Also suggests that women who are looking to manage hot flashes make lifestyle changes as a way of avoiding this troublesome symptom.
Provides fashion tips for women who are going through menopause and are finding themselves prone to hot flashes. These options are: wearing cotton clothes, dressing in layers, and carrying a hand fan as ways to control this troublesome symptom and provide relief to menopausal women.
Hot Flashes Treatments
If the simple management techniques outlined above are not bringing about the desired level of relief and a woman is still suffering from hot flashes, there are other treatment measures that can be followed.
Hot Flash Fighting Health Tips:
• Practice slow, diaphragmatic breathing.
• Eat a balanced diet.
• Increase Vitamin E intake to 800mg/day.
• Increase Vitamin B intake.
• Increase soy protein intake.
• Exercise regularly.
• Consider meditation or yoga.
Daily behaviors can have a significant impact on a woman's experience of hot flashes. For example, eating a spicy dinner or having one too many glasses of wine with dessert can trigger hot flashes. Increased stress due to work pressure or family obligations can also set a hot flash into motion. Lifestyle adjustments are two-pronged: some strategies focus on avoiding triggers while others concentrate on increasing overall health (some overlap in the two exists, as one would expect).
It is most logical, as well as safest, to begin with the least invasive lifestyle changes first, and then progress on to other measures if these are not working. Due to the fact that at heart, hot flashes are a hormonal issue, it is most effective to address the problem at the hormonal source. Natural and alternative remedies are a safe and easy way to nip this problem in the bud, particularly in conjunction with lifestyle changes to promote overall health.
In more drastic cases, it may be advisable to seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, though surely these are more risky in terms of side effects and should be approached with caution. In addition to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), several other pharmaceutical drugs may be effective hot flash treatment options. These drugs include:
• Selective-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (anti-depressants)
• Blood pressure medications
• Mild sedatives
• Seizure medications
It is important to keep in mind that while all of these drugs have the potential to assist in hot flash relief, they all carry a risk of side effects, some of which may outweigh any potential benefits. Click on the following link to read and learn more specifics about the different options for the treatment of hot flashes.
Important information about assistance for hot flashes include a list of points on how to prevent hot flashes, such as dressing light, drinking water, and eating a diet rich in soy and herbal supplements. Also includes a list of common triggers and different natural and clinical treatments available that help alleviate this symptom.
Describes the different choices that menopausal women have for treating hot flashes that do not go away with lifestyle changes. Advises women to try alternative medicine (such as phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating supplements) first because these remedies carry no side-effects, and then progressing to prescription medications if all else fails.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).
- "Hot flashes ... in January". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
- Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop". Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.
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