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Hot Flashes

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: April 08, 2013

Overview and Facts

Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause in women. They can be described as a sudden sensation or feeling of heat on the face and upper body. Often accompanied by a red, flushed face, hot flashes are typically brought on by the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. About 85 percent of women in the United States experience hot flashes during menopause or even the stages leading up to menopause.

Signs and Symptoms

What you experience during a hot flash and how often you experience them can vary from woman to woman. For some, persistent sweating occurs, and for others, you just feel warmer than normal. Other symptoms that can happen during a hot flash include:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling of warmth spreading through face and upper body
  • Flushed appearance
  • Perspiration
  • Feeling of pressure in head

Causes and Diagnosis

In general, hot flashes are brought on by the hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s body as she approaches and goes through menopause. Scientists aren’t quite sure what causes them, but they do know that they occur when blood vessels at the skin’s surface dilate to cool. This shows that hot flashes are related to circulation and your body’s thermostat – the hypothalamus, which is the area of the brain that regulates body temperature. When the body gets hot, it signals for things such as sweating to occur to cool the body down.

Preventing of hot flashes

Certain things trigger hot flashes – avoiding them can help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. These triggers include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Diet pills
  • Spicy food
  • Stress
  • Heat
  • Hot tubs, saunas
  • Smoke

Other things you can to minimize hot flashes include:

  • Get daily exercise
  • Stay cool – use fans and wear light clothing
  • Practice deep breathing

Tests and Treatment Options

There are some nonprescription and prescription treatments your doctor may recommend to provide hot flashes relief. These include:

Nonprescription:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Vitamin B complex and vitamin E

Prescription:

  • Birth control pills
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Hormones

For more severe hot flashes, a doctor may recommend hormone therapy such as estrogen therapy or progesterone therapy to control hot flashes. Not all women can participate in these methods. A doctor may also prescribe nonhormonal medication to reduce hot flashes.

References

  • http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/hot-flashes
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hot-flashes/DS01143
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/hot_flashes/article.htm
  • http://womenshealth.about.com/od/hotflashesandmenopause/Hot_Flashes_and_Menopause.htm
  • http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Menopause/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

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