FAQ: What is a hot flash?A: Also called “hot flushes,” hot flashes are very common before, during and after menopause. During a hot flash, a woman experiences a sudden onset of intense heat in the face, neck, arms or upper body. Each episode lasts from a few seconds to several minutes.
FAQ: What symptoms do women experience during a hot flash?A: Each woman will experience her own set of symptoms during menopause. When these symptoms start, how frequent they are and how long they last is unique to the woman. Although there is little consistency between women, each woman will develop her own pattern of symptoms.
Most women do not experience every symptom of hot flashes, but most women will experience one or more symptoms. Women who go through early menopause due to surgery or other medical procedure usually have longer lasting and more intense hot flashes. The breast cancer drug tamoxifen can also cause more intense symptoms, but as the woman adjusts to the medication, the symptoms will lessen.
Hot Flash Symptoms
• Intense and sudden sensation of heat
• Quickened pulse and heart rate
• Cold chills (usually after the hot flash has ended)
• Some women have an aura before a hot flash strikes
• Feeling of suffocation
FAQ: Do all women have hot flashes?A: No, not all women will experience hot flashes, but up to 85 percent of all woman will have hot flashes after menopause. Nearly 45 percent of women will start flashes one to two years before her last period.
FAQ: When do hot flashes starts?A: A woman can have her first hot flash before, during or after menopause. Most women will have their first episode in what is known as perimenopause, the years before menopause officially starts. Most women will have them for one to two years after menopause ends.
FAQ: How long will hot flashes last after menopause?A: Just as women have their first hot flash at different times, women will experience their last episode at different times. For the majority of women, hot flashes will last two years after menopause. Some women, however, will have them for up to 15 years after menopause.
FAQ: How long does each hot flash last?A: Each episode lasts anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Some women take up to half an hour to feel normal again after each episode. Longer and more intense hot flashes take longer to recover from.
FAQ: How often do woman have hot flashes?A: There’s no consistency between women as to how often hot flashes occur; each individual woman will develop her own pattern. Some women have them infrequently, but others can have 20 hot flashes a day. Only 25 percent of menopausal women will have frequent and intense hot flashes.
The most common time of the day to have a hot flash in the evening or in the morning between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. because estrogen levels naturally drop at these two times of the day.
Q: Do certain things cause hot flashes?A: The most common theory is that changes in estrogen production during menopause causes hot flashes. A woman’s ovaries produce estrogen, and when this decreases during menopause, it affects the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is an area in the brain that regulates, among other things, body temperature.
During perimenopause, the hypothalamus mistakenly thinks the body is getting too hot and begins a series of events to cool off the body. When this happens, the woman will experience symptoms of a hot flash including intense heat, sweating and fast heart rate followed by cold chills.
FAQ: Do hot flashes only happen during menopause?A: No, other medical conditions can cause hot flashes. Women experiencing hot flashes before she thinks menopause should be starting should talk to a doctor. Having unusual symptoms along with hot flashes could mean they are caused by another disorder or condition.
Some diseases that can cause hot flashes are:
• Panic disorder
• Thyroid disease
FAQ: Does a woman need to see a doctor for hot flashes?A: Do not hesitate to ask a doctor for any questions about hot flashes. Some women will experience severe hot flashes that should be evaluated by a doctor. Only about 15 percent of menopausal women will have hot flashes this severe.
Women who are not likely to be perimenopausal but are having hot flashes should see a doctor to rule out an underlying medical condition.
FAQ: Can hot flashes be managed?A: Yes, there are many simple lifestyle changes that can reduce both the severity and the frequency of hot flashes. Certain triggers can cause hot flashes, and avoiding these triggers can help women reduce the number of episodes.
Some hot flash triggers are being in a hot room, tight or constrictive clothing, consuming spicy or hot beverages or food, stress, excess alcohol or caffeine, anxiety and smoking cigarettes.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising and reducing stress can help women reduce hot flashes. If this does not help, there are other steps women can take to reduce hot flashes.