So, you’re having a wonderful day with various exciting activities. Just like any other day, you’ve finished all the tasks at work and are about to go home happy. But all of a sudden, you start feeling very hot and don’t know why. That is when you know you’re having a hot flash. Let’s learn what causes hot flashes, their symptoms, and treatments.
Learn What Causes Hot Flashes and the Treatments That Women After Menopause Need
Hot flashes can be very annoying. They occur from time to time, and you never know when they’re going to happen. While what causes hot flashes, their symptoms, and treatments might concern many women, first and foremost, let’s look at what hot flashes are.
What Are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are sudden intense sensations of internal warmth in the upper body, commonly on the face, neck, and chest. Hot flashes usually consist of excessive sweating and rapid heartbeat. Chills might also occur if excessive sweating becomes constant and the body loses too much heat.
Hot flashes are not uncommon among women during and after menopause. More than two-thirds of North American women reaching menopause have hot flashes. Moreover, hot flashes are the most prevalent symptom of menopause and perimenopause.
What Are Symptoms of Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes cause a variety of symptoms. The frequency and intensity of these symptoms might vary among different individuals. During a hot flash, you might have some of these symptoms:
- Warmth in the fingers, face, arms, chest, abdomen, back, and legs
- Sweating on the upper body
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sleep disturbance
- Red, patchy skin
A hot flash might last anywhere from one to five minutes at a time. However, women might notice this condition multiple times a day. A study conducted in the US showed that 87% of the women reported daily hot flashes, and about a third of those women reported that they had hot flashes more than ten times a day.
How Long Do Hot Flashes Last?
One of the main questions many women ask about hot flashes is how long they will go on. Of course, if the duration of hot flashes only lasts within a few months, then ladies shouldn’t have to worry too much about them.
On average, women experience hot flashes during and after menopause and may have this condition for 4 years. However, hot flashes might go on much longer than that in some cases. They might even last as long as 20 years for some women.
What Causes Hot Flashes?
Estrogen stimulates the growth of female reproductive health. However, during the menopausal transition, estrogen levels usually decrease. This estrogen depletion might be what causes hot flashes. Other potential causes of hot flashes include:
- Medication side effects
- Cancer treatment side effects
- Thyroid problems
- Ovary surgery
How to Treat Hot Flashes
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid hot flashes because they occur naturally throughout and after menopause. You can, however, improve hot flashes by changing your lifestyle and using medications.
1. Lifestyle Change
Before considering any medical treatment for the annoying condition you have, try making changes in your lifestyle and see if those changes might improve your hot flashes. Anything from drinking water before going to bed to maintaining a healthy weight can all be helpful. Here are some suggestions:
- Lower the room temperature
- Drink small amounts of cold water before going to bed
- Dress in layers so that you can take them off if a hot flash occurs
- Bring a portable fan with you when going outside
- Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine
- Give up smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
2. Behavioral Treatment
If changes in your lifestyle are not sufficient to improve hot flashes, some other types of treatment, such as behavioral treatment, might come into play.
Relaxation-based procedures might help treat hot flashes. According to a study of thirty-three postmenopausal women experiencing regular hot flashes, all received six weekly sessions of muscular relaxation, paced breathing, and some additional treatment. Results showed that the behavioral treatment dramatically reduced the frequency and intensity of hot flashes while remaining risk-free.
3. Hormonal Medications
Medications for treating hot flashes fall into two categories: hormonal and non-hormonal medications.
Hormonal medications give back the hormones such as estrogen. Hormone therapy using hormonal medications is an FDA-approved treatment for hot flashes and has proven effective.
However, many women are hesitant to use hormonal medication due to its risks. A study in 2002 was abandoned ahead of time since participants who received hormone medications had a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, dementia, urine incontinence, and gallbladder disease.
It’s worth noting that when you stop taking hormonal medications, the hot flashes might reappear.
4. Non-hormonal Medications
Since many women are unwilling to take hormonal medications, non-hormonal medications might be an alternative to hot flashes treatment.
Clonidine, a medication used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), might improve severe hot flashes. An 8-week study involving 194 postmenopausal women found that oral clonidine reduced hot flash frequency up to 38%. However, results also showed that individuals receiving clonidine were more likely to have difficulty sleeping.
Serotonergic agents, the chemicals that modify the effects of serotonin in the body, might also help improve hot flashes. These serotonergic agents, functioning as antidepressants, might include fluoxetine, venlafaxine, escitalopram, and gabapentin.
According to an 8-week trial involving 81 women with at least 14 hot flashes per week on average, fluoxetine decreased 50% of hot flash frequency and severity. No side effects were recorded. Fluoxetine, therefore, might have the potential to mitigate hot flashes if given subcutaneously.
A 4-week trial consisting of 191 women showed that daily venlafaxine 150 mg reduced hot flashes by 61%. Nevertheless, participants frequently experienced several side effects: mouth dryness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and constipation. That said, the study concluded that venlafaxine is an effective non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes.
In an 8-week trial enrolling 205 women, results showed that taking escitalopram reduced 4.60 hot flash occurrences per day. Hot flash severity also improved significantly. Moreover, half of the participants reported a decrease of at least 50% in hot flash frequency at the 8-week follow-up.
In a series of four studies that lasted up to 12 weeks, results showed that gabapentin reduced hot flash frequency and composite scores up to 71% from baseline. Gabapentin was equivalent to hormone replacement treatment in reducing hot flash composite scores after 12 weeks and hot flash frequency after eight weeks. However, these studies also showed side effects of gabapentin, including drowsiness, unsteadiness, and dizziness.
Found in soy products, isoflavones have estrogenic properties that can help treat hot flashes. According to research, hot flashes greatly improved after six months of taking a herbal supplement comprising 72 mg of isoflavones from soybeans and red clover.
Although hot flashes are not dangerous to overall health, they can substantially negatively impact women’s daily activities and life quality. Understanding what causes hot flashes to eliminate the underlying problems might help women deal with this condition.
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