Hot Flashes: What Can I Do
Hot flashes, a common symptom of the menopausal transition, are uncomfortable and can last for many years. When they happen at night, hot flashes are called night sweats. Some women find that hot flashes interrupt their daily lives. The earlier in life hot flashes begin, the longer you may experience them. Research has found that African American and Hispanic women get hot flashes for more years than white and Asian women.
You may decide you dont need to change your lifestyle or investigate treatment options because your symptoms are mild. But, if you are bothered by hot flashes, there are some steps you can take. Try to take note of what triggers your hot flashes and how much they bother you. This can help you make better decisions about managing your symptoms.
Why You Experience Symptoms
Menopausal symptoms or really perimenopausal symptoms, develop due to decreased estrogen levels. When your body transitions through menopause, you produce less of the major sex hormone thats in charge of your reproductive health.
Estrogen also influences the parts of your brain that help maintain body temperature and enhance production of your feel good chemicals. Estrogen is important in preserving bone strength and preventing bone loss it also regulates cholesterol production, which protects you from heart disease.
This explains why you may feel more depressed, have hot flashes, and be more vulnerable to osteoporosis and heart disease with perimenopause and menopause.
Use A Vaginal Lubricant Or Moisturizer
Lubricant can provide moisture and reduce friction in the vagina, and it is usually applied right before sex. Lubricant is not absorbed into the body and can be purchased over-the-counter at a pharmacy. Usually, water-based lubricant is recommended because oil-based lubricant tends to break condoms and also has a higher risk of causing vaginal infections.
Vaginal moisturizers are used on a regular bases to provide moisture to the vagina and are absorbed by the body. They are not used before sex. Vaginal moisturizers can be purchased over-the counter at pharmacies.
Some vaginal moisturizers contain estrogen, but these need a prescription. Estrogen replacement has been found to greatly reduce many menopausal symptoms. Estrogen replacement can be taken in many different forms, not just in a moisturizer. It is important not to use estrogen containing vaginal moisturizer before sex because the hormones can negatively impact your partner’s health.
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How Long Do Symptoms Last
Perimenopausal symptoms can last four years on average. The symptoms associated with this phase will gradually ease during menopause and postmenopause. Women whove gone an entire year without a period are considered postmenopausal.
Hot flashes, also known as hot flushes, are a common symptom of perimenopause. One study found that moderate to severe hot flashes could continue past perimenopause and last for a
Researchers also found that Black women and women of average weight experience hot flashes for a longer period than white women and women who are considered overweight.
Its possible for a woman to experience menopause before the age of 55. Early menopause occurs in women who go through menopause before theyre 45 years old. Its considered premature menopause if youre menopausal and are 40 years old or younger.
Early or premature menopause can happen for many reasons. Some women can go through early or premature menopause because of surgical intervention, like a hysterectomy. It can also happen if the ovaries are damaged by chemotherapy or other conditions and treatments.
Indications For Surgical Menopause
Surgical menopause is commonly performed at the time of hysterectomy for benign disease, most commonly for heavy menstrual bleeding or fibroids . Another common reason to remove normal ovaries at the time of hysterectomy is to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. This has been shown to be beneficial in women with an inherited increased chance of developing ovarian cancer , and for some women with very strong family histories of ovarian cancer, but is not recommended for other women as the disadvantages of removing normal ovaries at the time of hysterectomy are likely to be greater than their very small risk of ovarian cancer . Very little is known about the impact of removing normal ovaries from postmenopausal women.
Some premenopausal women will elect to have their ovaries removed for other indications, such as endometriosis or chronic pelvic pain. Depending on the circumstances, removal of the ovaries may improve pain, but it is not always effective. Some doctors may suggest a trial of a drug to bring on a short term chemical menopause before surgery to try and mimic the effects of surgical menopause. However, it is not currently possible to predict how surgical menopause will affect individual women.
Although surgical menopause is common, there have been remarkably few studies which have followed women before and after oophorectomy to try and understand how surgery affects their menopausal symptoms and short and long term health.
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Can Menopause Be Treated
Menopause is a natural process that your body goes through. In some cases, you may not need any treatment for menopause. When treatment for menopause is discussed, its about treating the symptoms of menopause that disrupt your life. There are many different types of treatments for the symptoms of menopause. The main types of treatment for menopause are:
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider while you are going through menopause to craft a treatment plan that works for you. Every person is different and has unique needs.
HT comes in several forms:
- Oral tablets or pills
- Vaginal ring
- Topical gel or spray
HT pills and skin patches are considered âsystemicâ therapy because the medication delivered affects the entire body. The risk for blood clots, heart attacks, and certain types of cancers is higher with hormone pills than with skin patches or other transdermal forms.
Vaginal forms of HT are called âlocalâ therapy. Doctors generally prescribe vaginal applications of low-dose estrogen therapy to specifically treat menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness and pain during sex. This type of ET is available in a cream, tablet, or ring that is inserted into the vagina.
Why An Oophorectomy Might Be Necessary
An oophorectomy is often recommended by doctors to inhibit the development of chronic diseases. Patients at greater risk for breast or ovarian cancer based on family history may be advised to have one or both ovaries removed. In many cases, an oophorectomy is performed alongside a hysterectomy, which would similarly induce surgical menopause.
The relief of chronic and persistent pelvic pain or symptoms of endometriosis have also been cited as reasons for undergoing an oophorectomy. Others include:
- Ovarian torsion
- Weight gain
To control the adverse effects of surgical menopause, your doctor might suggest hormone replacement therapy. HRT addresses the sometimes severe hormonal imbalances in your body brought on by surgical menopause.
Menopause symptoms can be painful and disrupt your daily activities. HRT helps alleviate those symptoms while simultaneously curbing bone loss and aiding in the prevention of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
This is particularly critical for women under 45 years of age who have an oophorectomy prior to experiencing natural menopause. They possess a greater chance of developing heart disease, neurological issues, and cancer without HRT.
Surgical menopause symptoms aside, dont start HRT if you have:
- A personal or family history of ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer
- A personal history of thrombosis, or blood clots
- Untreated high blood pressure
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After Your Period Stops
The permanent end of menstrual periods doesnt necessarily mean the end of bothersome menopause symptoms, however.
Theres a window of about eight years in which women can feel those flashes and sweats, Dr. Audlin says.
Women who have reached menopause can expect menopause symptoms to become worse than they were during perimenopause, the 2- to 10-year stage leading up to the permanent end of menstruation. Experts dont know exactly why this happens, but its believed to be related to the hypothalamus, the portion of the brain that regulates temperature.
The hypothalamus is acutely responsive to estrogens, Audlin says. Leading up to menopause, your estrogen levels fluctuate. When theyre high, you dont have symptoms. But when you go into menopause and theres a complete lack of estrogen, you start to notice those symptoms more.
The Female Reproductive System
The female reproductive system is made up of the:
- womb a pear-shaped organ in the middle of your pelvis where a baby develops the lining of the womb is shed during a period
- cervix the neck of the womb, where the womb meets the vagina the cervix is the lower part of the womb and not separate
- vagina a muscular tube below the cervix
- fallopian tubes tubes that connect the womb to the ovaries
- ovaries small organs by the fallopian tubes that release an egg each month
Page last reviewed: 01 February 2019 Next review due: 01 February 2022
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When Do Menopause Symptoms Start
The symptoms usually associated with menopause are actually a byproduct of the perimenopausal stage, or the years leading up to menopause. This is when estrogen and progesterone levels begin to erratically fluctuate as ovarian reproductive functions come to a halt.
Perimenopause usually starts in a woman’s mid-40s, although some women can enter it as young as their early 30s or even as late as their 50s .
As such, a woman is considered to have reached menopause when she has been period-free for 12 consecutive months, and the average age for menopause in the United States is 51.
Who Can I Talk To
Though theres still stigma and embarrassment around the menopause, its important to know that youre not alone and theres support out there.
Try to be open about your symptoms with your partner, family and friends it can help them to understand what youre going through and could reduce any embarrassment about symptoms.
Sharing experiences with other women going through the same thing could be reassuring. There are many websites, blogs and videos online where women have shared their stories of the menopause.
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How Do I Stay Healthy After Menopause
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially as you age and your risk for certain medical conditions increases. Some ways for people in postmenopause to stay healthy include:
- Exercising regularly. Walking, doing yoga or strength training can help lower your risk for many medical conditions.
- Weight-bearing exercises can strengthen your bones and muscles.
- Eating a healthy diet. Foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains should make up the bulk of your diet. Avoid lots of salt or sugar and limit your consumption of alcohol.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Going through menopause can be uncomfortable and present new challenges and health concerns. Speak with your healthcare provider about any symptoms you feel or questions you have. They can help make sure you are supported through this time and get the care you need.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/05/2021.
What Are The First Signs Of Menopause
We always say that checking in with how and what youre feeling is the best way to confirm youre in menopause. If you feel that something is off or that you are experiencing more and more symptoms around the age when perimenopause or menopause most often begins you have probably started your transition.
|While there is no set first sign of perimenopause or menopause, there are 16 very common symptoms:|
Its important to realize that perimenopause and menopause dont cause only physical symptoms. You may experience a range unsettling changes in emotions, memory and concentration, as well those in the list above. For some women, these are the worst symptoms of all.
With such a wide range of symptoms, its no wonder many women dont connect them to perimenopausal hormonal imbalance. If you would like to read more about symptoms, see our article Signs and symptoms of menopause.
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How Long Should Menopause Symptoms Last
Menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats aren’t a short-term problem. More than half of women experience these unpleasant change-of-life symptoms for seven years or more, a new study finds.
“Women should not be surprised if their hot flashes last a number of years,” said lead researcher Nancy Avis, a professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Four out of five women experience hot flashes and night sweats in the years before their periods cease, leaving some with 12 or even 14 years of unpleasant symptoms, the study found. And women who could pinpoint their final period reported symptoms persisted for an average of 4.5 years afterward.
The findings, published online Feb. 16 in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest a need for “more research on safe and effective ways to relieve these symptoms,” Avis said. Menopausal symptoms affect quality of life, disrupt sleep and result in worse physical health, she and her colleagues noted.
Menopause — which is confirmed when a woman’s periods have ceased for 12 consecutive months — occurs most often between ages 45 and 55, according to the North American Menopause Society. The symptoms women experience are related to lower levels of estrogen and other hormones. Common among these symptoms are hot flashes — quick feelings of heat sometimes accompanied by sweating.
How Long Does Menopause Last
Perimenopause and menopause symptoms can last anywhere from a few months to more than 10 years. Menopause officially begins and ends when you havent had your period for 12 consecutive months. We say officially because theres a lot more involved in the transition than just that specific time without a menstrual cycle.
For many women, its hard to pin down exactly when menopause starts and even more difficult to know exactly when it will be finished which can make it seem so much longer.
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What Other Menopause Symptoms Will I Get Along With Hot Flushes
As mentioned earlier, a fall in oestrogen is the main cause of hot flushes. Falling oestrogen can also cause irregular periods, fatigue, insomnia, early waking and mood swings. These are some of the most common first signs of menopause or perimenopause please have a read of our article on Perimenopause and 8 Useful Steps to find out what you can do to glide smoothly through perimenopause and menopause!
Read our article Perimenopause and 8 Useful Steps
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Average Age Of Postmenopause
Of course, all women experience these natural changes differently, so there is a wide age range at which women first become postmenopausal. Natural postmenopause usually occurs sometime between a woman’s late 40s and early 60s, with the average postmenopausal age being 51 years old.
One of the most important tests for postmenopausal women to take is a bone density screening test, which helps determine the levels of calcium in bones. In this way, women can take timely action to prevent osteoporosis, a condition related to postmenopause.
Click on the following link to read more about postmenopause, or keep reading to learn about the causes of postmenopause.
While periods can occur as women enter the menopausal transition , experiencing a period over 12 months after the previous one is not possible during postmenopause. Causes for postmenopausal bleeding are often benign.
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Q: What Causes Hot Flashes
A: The exact causes of hot flashes are still unknown, but they are thought to be related to changes in the brains thermoregulatory center, which controls heat production and loss, and is influenced by your hormones. During perimenopause, hormones start acting like a rollercoaster, with progesterone and estrogen levels changing in wide variations. These ups and downs dont settle down until almost 10 years after menopause.
How Long Do Menopause
Even though menopause marks a point in time in which a woman has not menstruated for 12 months and is no longer ovulating , the symptoms of menopause may persist.
Most women stop having hot flashes within five years following their final menstrual period. However, a report on the management of menstrual symptoms notes that the Penn Ovarian Aging Study found that more than one-third of women continued to have moderate to severe hot flashes for 10 years or more. Women who began having hot flashes as they entered perimenopause had them longer, for an average of 11.6 years. African-American women had a longer duration than white women.
Vaginal dryness, burning, and itchiness also occurs as a result of estrogen deficiency. The difference with this symptom is that it tends to get worse as women get older. In fact, only between one quarter and one third of women in perimenopause or early postmenopause experience vaginal dryness. But as women reach late postmenopause, about half report vaginal dryness.
There are other symptoms that may begin during perimenopause and persist throughout postmenopause. These include:
- Sleep problems
- Cognitive changes such as memory loss
- Muscle and joint pains
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When To See A Doctor
At the onset of perimenopause, a person may wish to schedule regular doctor visits for preventive healthcare.
Around perimenopause, doctors may recommend certain health screenings that sometimes include a colonoscopy, mammogram, and blood tests.
An individual should not hesitate to seek a doctors care and advice to deal with disruptive menopausal symptoms. If vaginal bleeding occurs after menopause, a person should also seek medical attention.