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Hot Flashes – Symptomes, Causes, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What are Hot flashes and why do they happen?

Common hot flashes may happen at any time, leaving the individual red-faced as well as sweaty. Usually extra hormonal disorders are the cause of hot flashes but they are most frequent because of menopause. There are approximately three out of four women who have hot flashes while they go thru menopause.


Hot flashes do not necessarily need to be treated especially if the individual tolerates them well. But if they become extremely bothersome, there are treatment options available but discovery of the best choice to control these hot flashes does take time. Any person suffering with hot flashes should begin by asking themselves exactly how the hot flashes are upsetting their daily life. After visiting with their physician, the individual should consider the pros and cons of prescription medications, lifestyle changes as well as other remedies which are common.

Hot Flashes Symptoms

When an individual suffers with a hot flash, they can experience:

  • Flushed appearance including blotchy, red skin on the neck, upper chest as well as face
  • Sensation of pressure in the head at the beginning of the hot flash
  • Feeling of warmth that is mild progressing to extreme heat dissemination thru the upper body and face
  • Perspiration, mainly on the upper body
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • When hot flash subsides a chilly feeling

Symptoms less common which are related to hot flashes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness

Hot flashes often vary in occurrence – they may be numerous in one day or just a few in a week. You can experience sweating which is persistent thru out the day and night, or you can just infrequently have the feeling of being warmer than usual. They can last for 30 minutes but mostly they subside in a few minutes. Night sweats or hot flashes at night can wake up the person from a sound sleep.

When hot flashes start to become especially troublesome as well as unsettling to your daily routine that is the time to consider an appointment with your doctor to discuss any options for treatment.

Hot Flashes Causes

The precise cause of hot flashes is not known but the symptoms and signs normally point to factors which affect the functioning of the body’s thermostat – which is the hypothalamus. This is the area at the base of the brain that controls the temperature of the body as well as other basic processes. Estrogen being reduced during menopause can upset the hypothalamic role and therefore lead to hot flashes.

But low estrogen alone does not seem to induce hot flashes, because women as well as children with low estrogen levels due to medical conditions normally do not experience hot flashes. But it seems that the withdrawal of estrogen as happens during menopause appears to be the trigger.

It is notable that not all women going thru menopause experience hot flashes. It is not clear why some women get hot flashes and others don’t. The following factors can increase the risk of hot flashes:

Obesity

A high body mass index is associated with a higher frequency of hot flashes.

Smoking

Women who smoke are much more likely to have hot flashes.

Physical inactivity

If you do not exercise, you are more likely to have hot flashes during menopause.

Ethnicity

More African-American women have menopausal hot flashes than women of European descent. Hot flashes are also less common in women of Japanese as well as Chinese descent than in white European women.

Problems with sleep are often complications of hot flashes. Night sweats or nighttime hot flashes can wake an individual from sleep and overtime, can cause problems with chronic insomnia. This disturbance with sleep can over time lead to memory problems, depression as well as anxiety in some women.

Hot Flashes Treatment

Your primary care physician can diagnose hot flashes normally based on an explanation of the symptoms experienced. To confirm the cause, the physician may also question you about your medical history as well as reproductive health, including the date of your last period.

Menopause is known as a life transition which is natural. If hot flashes are not interfering with your life, you do not need any treatment. If it is necessary to ease the symptoms with any treatment, you need to be periodically re-evaluating the need for continuing the particular treatment. With most women, hot flashes slowly fade within a few years.

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Hot Flashes Hormone therapy

For moderate to severe hot flashes, your physician may advise hormone therapy. Estrogen therapy is the most effective treatment option for hot flashes, but there are some cases where the physician might prescribe progesterone therapy instead.

Estrogen therapy

If you have had a hysterectomy, you can take estrogen alone. But if you still have your reproductive organs and they are intact, you should take progesterone along with the estrogen to protect against cancer of the lining of the uterus – endometrial cancer. With either option, current recommendations are to use the lowest dose which is effective for the shortest amount of time needed to bring relief of symptoms.

Prior to starting estrogen therapy for symptoms of menopause, review your risk factors for heart-disease with your physician and weigh the benefits of symptom relief against the risk—although remote—of developing heart disease as a result. It is also likely that hormone therapy interacts with other factor—timing and length of hormone use, family history and reproductive history for instance—to increase this risk but there is absolutely no way to know what is safest for you exclusively. Your physician will help you to gauge the pros and the cons.

Therapy with estrogen is not a good option if you have had any history of blood clots or breast cancer.

Progesterone therapy

An alternative for women who cannot take estrogen, some physicians prescribe progesterone alone to control hot flashes. Two drugs which are progesterone-like include megestrol acetate and medroxyprogesterone acetate; have proven to provide some relief from hot flashes.

Other Prescription Medications

If you decide not to opt in for estrogen or progesterone therapy, your physician can suggest a non-hormonal medication for the reduction of hot flashes. These drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of hot flashes, but they have been approved for the treatment of other conditions.

Antidepressants

Low dose of certain antidepressants can decrease hot flashes. Antidepressants from classes of medication referred to as “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” or SSRIs and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs – including Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Pristiq and other, have been shown to relieve hot flashes. But, these drugs are not as effective as hormone therapy for the symptoms of severe hot flashes as well as causing unwanted side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. Your physician can discuss the benefits and the potential side effects.

Gabapentin known as Neurontine

This medication is approved for treating seizures or any pain associated with shingles. It is increasingly used to treat various other types of pain. This medication may be moderately effective in the reduction of hot flashes, especially for women who have symptoms at night. Side effects can be dizziness, headaches and drowsiness.

Clonidine

The delivery includes oral or by patch and is normally used to treat high blood pressure and can provide some relief of hot flashes. Side effects include dizziness, headaches and drowsiness as well as dry mouth and constipation are common, often limiting the drug’s usefulness for treating hot flashes.

If the hot flashes are mild, you might be able to manage them with lifestyle changes alone.

Keep cool

Dress in layers of clothing can be removed if you feel too warm. Keep air flowing by using a fan or air conditioner. If possible, lower room temperature. Sip a cold drink if you feel a hot flash beginning.

Watch what you drink and eat

Cut down hot and spicy foods, caffeinated beverages as well as alcohol can trigger hot flashes.

Relax

Mild hot flashes can be relieved with yoga, relaxation, meditation or other stress-reducing techniques.

Deep breathing

Deep and slow abdominal breathing may decrease hot flashes. Pace your respiration for 15 minutes twice a day or at the beginning of a hot flash can be helpful.

Stop smoking

Smoking is linked to increased hot flashes.

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