Hot flashes usually start suddenly, with a sensation of heat that begins in the upper chest and face and then spreads. The sensation of heat, accompanied by profuse sweating and sometimes rapid heartbeat , lasts from one to five minutes. After that, some women experience chills, chills, and anxiety .
While this is completely normal, hot flashes can be devastating for women who experience them. While some women have a hot flash on average once a day, others have it every hour, day, and night. Night hot flashes are not only confusing and uncomfortable, but they also interfere with sleep.
Hot flashes during menopause
Up to 80 percent of women experience hot flashes during menopause. They are most common late in menopause, shortly before a woman enters early postmenopause .
While it was once thought that hot flashes would stop within a few years, there is a growing body of research suggesting that hot flashes can last much longer than previously thought. According to the North American Menopause Society, most women have hot flashes that last five to seven years, but in others, they can last 10 to 15 years. Some women can even experience hot flashes for more than 20 years .
Causes of vasomotor symptoms.
During menopause , estrogen hormone levels begin to drop. Loss of estrogen interferes with the body's ability to properly regulate heat, triggering a sweat response at lower than normal body temperatures.
The feeling of heat during a hot flash is due to the sudden opening of blood vessels near the skin, followed by increased blood flow. Sweating lowers core body temperature and can then cause chills to bring the temperature back to normal.
Hormonal treatment of vasomotor symptoms.
Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is very effective in treating moderate to very severe vasomotor symptoms. Women who have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) can only take estrogen. A woman who still has a uterus will be prescribed a combination of estrogen and progestin. Progestin is necessary to reduce the risk of uterine cancer.
However, since MHT is associated with heart attacks , breast cancer , blood clots , and strokes in elderly postmenopausal women, women are advised to use the lowest dose for the shortest period of time possible ( no more than five years) .
Women of a certain age with a history of certain conditions, such as breast cancer, coronary artery disease, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke, should consider alternatives to hormone therapy. Women at high risk for these complications should also consider alternatives .
Non-hormonal treatments for hot flashes
For women who cannot take hormones, or who choose not to take them, there are many other alternatives. The North American Menopause Society recommends a variety of non-hormonal treatments :
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Clinical hypnosis
- Paroxetine salt
- Selective serotonin / norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs
Of course, the best treatment for you is the one that works for you. Many women with mild hot flashes say they find relief in strategies like lowering the indoor temperature, using fans, dressing in layers that are easy to remove, and avoiding triggers like spicy foods.