We don't know exactly what causes them, but they may be related to changes in circulation. Some women have a rapid heart rate or chills, too. When they happen while you sleep , they're called night sweats.
They can wake you up and may make it hard to get enough rest. That depends.
About 2 in 10 women never get hot flashes. Others have hot flashes for only a very short period of time. Still others can have them for 11 years or more.
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On average, however, women get hot flashes or night sweats for about 7 years. In a hot flash, the hypothalamus seems to sense that your body is too hot even when it is not, and tells the body to release the excess heat. One way the body does this is to widen dilate blood vessels, particularly those near the skin of the head, face, neck and chest.
Once the blood vessels return to normal size, you feel cool again. Menopause usually occurs around age 51, but hot flashes can begin as early as 2 to 3 years before the last menstrual period. Hot flashes can last for 6 months to as long as 15 years after the final period. The average is two years. Some women have only a few episodes a year, while others have as many as 20 episodes a day. Hot flashes occur in women who experience natural menopause, as well as in women who undergo menopause because their ovaries have been removed surgically or because they take medications that lower estrogen levels.
These medications include gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, such as leuprolide Lupron or danazol Danocrine that lower estrogen levels.
Natural remedies for hot flashes
Although hot flashes usually are considered a female problem, men can have hot flashes if their levels of the male sex hormone testosterone drop suddenly and dramatically. Symptoms that mimic hot flashes can occur in both men and women who have a tumor of the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, certain serious infections such as tuberculosis or HIV, alcoholism or thyroid disorders. Symptoms that are similar to hot flashes also can be a side effect of the food additive monosodium glutamate MSG , or of certain medications, particularly nitroglycerin sold under many brand names , nifedipine Procardia, Adalat , niacin numerous brand names , vancomycin Vancocin and calcitonin Calcimar, Cibacalcin, Miacalcin.
A hot flash begins as a sensation of intense warmth in the upper body, followed by skin redness flushing , drenching perspiration, and finally a cold, clammy feeling. Typically, these symptoms begin at the head and spread downward toward the neck and chest. They last from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The average is 4 minutes. Hot flashes can be accompanied by other uncomfortable sensations, such as heart palpitations, a pressure feeling in the head, or feelings of dizziness, faintness or weakness. When hot flashes occur during the night, they can cause sleeplessness insomnia , resulting in poor concentration, memory problems, irritability and exhaustion during the day.
After noting your age, your doctor will ask you whether you are still having regular menstrual periods.
After several weeks, you may begin to see a pattern that can help you avoid specific triggers. You may be able to reduce the frequency of your hot flashes if you figure out your triggers, and avoid them. No treatment is guaranteed to prevent hot flashes, but there are options that may help you manage your symptoms. The goal of treatment is usually to lessen the severity and frequency of your hot flashes. You can consider lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy, prescription medications, or alternative therapies.
Talking to your doctor can help you decide on the best approach to help prevent your hot flashes. Some women are able to manage their hot flashes with some simple tools or techniques.
Hot Flashes Causes, Symptoms & Medication Treatment in Men and Women
Here are some simple ways to find relief:. Many women are turning to natural products to help with managing hot flashes and night sweats. Some products can interfere with over-the-counter and prescription medications. These include:.
- Time of the Otter.
- Understanding Hot Flashes: Triggers, Relief, and More.
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Check with your doctor before taking any of these products. Herbs can interfere with medications and aggravate disorders, beyond what is listed here.
Herbal products are not monitored for quality and purity by the FDA. The popularity of hormone replacement therapy HRT has waxed and waned over the years. Treatment with synthetic hormones may be an option for some women whose hot flashes are debilitating and greatly affect the quality of their life.
Estrogen supplements level out the amount of estrogen in your system, reducing the incidence and severity of hot flashes and night sweats. Estrogen is usually taken with progestin to reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer. It can be taken by pill, through a vaginal cream or gel, or a patch. A physician can help you make decisions is you are a candidate for HRT.
Many women will not be able to take hormones or bio-identical hormone and your doctor will take a full medical history. Other medications have been found to help women whose hot flashes and night sweats are difficult to manage. Work with your doctor to choose if these medications might be appropriate for you and your situation.
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Gabapentin and pregabalin, usually given for nerve-mediated pain or seizures, offer relief for some women. Antidepressants venlafaxine Effexor , fluoxetine Prozac , and paroxetine Paxil have also been shown to be effective for treatment of hot flashes. Acupuncture may be helpful, without the side effects of medication. One study published in found that women who had acupuncture had significantly fewer menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, than those who had sham treatments.
Hot Flashes: What Can I Do?
Another study worked with a large sample of women with breast cancer. Treatments for breast cancer often trigger hot flashes. Participants who used acupuncture had less frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Meditation can also be very successful in helping manage stress levels.
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