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Menopause Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are common. The flashes can begin in the period before menopause and occur in up to 80% of menopausal women.

What are hot flashes?

Hot flashes are sudden surges of heat on the upper chest and face. Some women may break out in a sweat or have rapid heartbeats with the flashes of heat. These symptoms can be followed by chills, shivering, and a feeling of anxiety. Night sweats, or hot flash symptoms that occur at night, can wake and keep a woman up.

How long do hot flashes last?

Hot flashes last from two to four minutes. They may occur an average of less than one each day to as many as one per hour during the day and night.

Most women experience hot flashes for 6 months to 2 years, but some may have sporadic episodes of hot flashes for 10 years or more.

Hot flash triggers

There may be no precipitant for hot flashes. Some women may notice that they get hot flashes by eating spicy food, eating a lot of sugar, smoking, caffeine, drinking alcohol, or simply being in a hot room. Since each woman’s hot flash trigger may be a little different, a personal log of symptoms with possible precipitants may help identify a pattern to help avoid specific triggers.

Lifestyle modifications

A few lifestyle modifications may provide some relief for this natural yet uncomfortable process. 

The lifestyle adjustments include:

  • Dress in layers to adjust to the sudden bursts of heat and cold

  • Lower the room temperature

  • Wear natural fibers instead of synthetic material

  • Sip on ice water at the start of a flash

  • Identify and avoid hot flash triggers

  • Don’t smoke

  • Lose weight

  • De-stress through meditation and deep breathing techniques

Medical management

Medical treatment for hot flashes include:

Hormones therapy.  Estrogen therapy is the most effective treatment for hot flashes but taking this hormone carries risks. Experts think these hormones are effective and safe for many women in their 40s and 50s with symptoms of menopause. But women who have breast cancer, a heart attack, stroke, or a blood clot should not take hormones. Every woman considering hormone therapy should have a discussion with her doctor to determine if hormone therapy is appropriate for her.

Antidepressants. Some antidepressants, such as paroxetine, can help ease hot flashes, even in women who are not clinically depressed.

Anti-seizure medicine. Gabapentin may help relieve hot flashes, even in women who do not have seizures.


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