Hot flashes manifest as a sudden sensation of heat, usually especially intense on the face and neck, and may be accompanied by a reddened face and sweating. They are the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, affecting approximately two-thirds of women during perimenopause, and nearly all women (to varying degrees of severity) during menopause.Most women who experience hot flashes will experience them for anywhere from 1 to 5 years.
The cause of hot flashes are not entirely known, although they are likely related to the fluctuating rates of estrogen that come with age-related period cessation. It is suspected that these fluctuating hormonal levels affect the hypothalamus’ ability to regulate body temperature.
Most women experience hot flashes as a sudden feeling of warmth or intense heat spreading through the upper body, leading to a flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin, a rapid heart rate, and increased perspiration, and ending with chills as the hot flash subsides. Women experience hot flashes with varying frequency, from 3 or 4 times a day to almost hourly. Additionally, night sweats, which are the manifestation of hot flashes during sleep, can occur throughout the night, causing chronic insomnia and fatigue. Many women experience memory and concentration problems, and some will experience anxiety and depression as a result of this sleeplessness.
There are a number of factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing hot flashes during menopause. Smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity all increase the likelihood of experiencing hot flashes. Other triggers include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing, heat, and stress. Additionally, ethnicity may play a role. It is reported that more African-American women experience hot flashes than women of European descent, and Asian-American women experience significantly fewer hot flashes compared to either group.
Although hormone therapy is a commonly recommended solution for women whose hot flashes are severely disrupting their lives, there are many potential side effects that come from taking supplemental estrogen and progesterone, including a higher risk of endometrial cancer. Recently, the Mayo Clinic has turned to recommending different approaches to treatment, including therapies such as relaxation techniques (like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong), hypnosis, and acupuncture as alternatives to hormone therapy or pharmaceuticals. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been effectively treating menopausal symptoms for many hundreds of years. Contact our women’s health specialists today to find out how we might be able to relieve the associated symptoms of menopause.