Causes Of Vasomotor Symptoms
During the menopause transition, levels of the hormone estrogen begin to drop. The loss of estrogen disrupts the body’s ability to regulate heat properly, causing a sweating response at lower-than-normal core body temperatures.
The feeling of heat during a hot flash is caused by the sudden opening of the blood vessels close to the skin, followed by increased blood flow. Sweating lowers the core body temperature and then may lead to shivering to increase the temperature back to normal.
Symptoms Associated With Hot Flashes
The two signature symptoms of estrogen withdrawl are hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and both are treated pretty well by estrogen. Many women are not distressed by these symptoms and good for them.
But AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Personsbut as not all members are retired, they are just AARPanyway, AARP did a menopause survey of their female members between 60 and 69, and 72 percent said that menopausal symptoms interfered with their lives and eight percent said it interfered a great deal.
Now, these women were actually about 10 years from their menopause. And when their ovaries stopped working 10 years ago and they’re still having symptoms, 20 percent said that they had vaginal dryness, 24 percent had hot flashes, and 23 percent night sweats. Of course, some had all three symptoms and some had none.
Women with severe hot flashes typically experience them for seven to 15 years, and 15 percent of women with severe hot flashes experience them for more than 15 years. Now, what in the brain makes this hot flash happen? Do only women get them?
Q: When Should A Woman Consult A Doctor About Hot Flashes
A: Any women with questions or concerns about hot flashes should consult their physicians. Approximately 10 – 15% of women experience hot flashes severe enough to warrant medical attention.
Women who are not likely entering menopause and those who are experiencing other strange symptoms should talk to a doctor to rule out other causes of hot flashes.
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Research On Risks Of Menopause Hormone Therapy
In 2002, a study that was part of the Women’s Health Initiative , funded by NIH, was stopped early because participants who received a certain combination and dosage of estrogen with progesterone were found to have a significantly higher risk of stroke, heart attacks, breast cancer, dementia, urinary incontinence, and gallbladder disease. This study raised significant concerns at the time and caused many women to become wary of using hormones.
However, research reported since then found that younger women are at less risk and have more potential benefits than was suggested by the WHI study. The negative effects of the WHI hormone treatments mostly affected women who were over age 60 and postmenopausal. Newer hormone formulations seem to have less risk and may provide benefits that outweigh possible risks for certain women during the menopausal transition. Studies continue to evaluate the benefit, risk, and long-term safety of hormone therapy.
Before taking hormones to treat menopause symptoms, about your medical and family history and any concerns or questions about taking hormones. If hormone therapy is right for you, it should be at the lowest dose, for the shortest period of time it remains effective, and in consultation with a doctor.
How To Recognize Hot Flashes
- Hot flashes occur abruptly, especially in the chest, face and neck. They disappear spontaneously.
- They usually last a few seconds, and sometimes up to several minutes.
- They are occasionally accompanied by redness, sweating, chills, palpitations and even, although rarely, dizziness.
- They can also happen at night.
The frequency of hot flashes varies from one woman to another some can have about 20 a day. No wonder they can affect your mood and quality of life! Hot flashes occur more often in the first years following menopause, and in general, their frequency reduces with time. However, they can persist in some women, which is why it is important to get proper relief.
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Why Does Menopause Happen
Natural menopause menopause that happens in your early 50s and is not caused by surgery or another medical condition is a normal part of aging. Menopause is defined as a complete year without menstrual bleeding, in the absence of any surgery or medical condition that may cause bleeding to artificially stop As you age, the reproductive cycle begins to slow down and prepares to stop. This cycle has been continuously functioning since puberty. As menopause nears, the ovaries make less of a hormone called estrogen. When this decrease occurs, your menstrual cycle starts to change. It can become irregular and then stop. Physical changes can also happen as your body adapts to different levels of hormones. The symptoms you experience during each stage of menopause are all part of your bodys adjustment to these changes.
Are There Medications That Help Reduce Hot Flashes
If youre having a hard time managing your hot flashes at home, you may want to ask your doctor about medications. If your hot flashes are a result of your body being put into medical menopause, your care team may treat you with some form of hormone therapy, because estrogen is the main hormone given to manage symptoms of menopause. However, not everyone can take estrogen replacements. Some cancers, like receptor-positive breast cancer, are sensitive to estrogen, so the replacement drugs may worsen the disease. In some people, estrogen therapy may actually increase the risk of breast cancer.
If you dont want to, or cant, take hormones, other medications may be effective. The antidepressant paroxetine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat hot flashes. Patients typically receive a lower dose for hot flashes than for treating depression. Some blood pressure medications and Gabapentin®, which is used to control seizures, have been shown to help, too.
Will I Have Hot Flashes As I Approach Menopause
Hot flashes are one of the most common signs of perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause. Menopause, when your period stops for good, typically happens between age 45 and 55.
Some women experience the heat and flushing of hot flashes without sweating, while others sweat so much they need a change of clothes. When hot flashes happen at night, leaving you and your sheets drenched, theyâre called night sweats.
For about 75% of women, hot flashes and night sweats are a fact of life during perimenopause and menopause. A lucky minority wonât experience them at all. Some women will experience only mild hot flashes.
But for 25% – 30% of women, hot flashes and night sweats will be severe enough to interfere with quality of life, says Valerie Omicioli, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science and a certified menopause practitioner at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
A single hot flash can last anywhere from one to five minutes and may occur a few times a week for some women or daily for others. When hot flashes are severe, they may strike four or five times an hour or 20 to 30 times a day, Omicioli says.
Q: How Common Are Hot Flashes
A: Since it is the most common menopause symptom, many women will experience hot flashes at some point during the menopausal transition. In fact, it is estimated that 75 – 85% of women will experience postmenopausal hot flashes. Approximately 45% of perimenopausal women will develop this symptom prior to the cessation of menstruation.
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What Causes Hot Flashes At Night
There are many reasons for having hot flashes at night including hormone fluctuations, a hot sleeping environment, an infection, or the food or prescription medications recently consumed.
While less common, having hot flashes at night can be a symptom of certain cancers, like lymphoma.
There are also normal body temperature variations that happen while sleeping, which can lead to excessive sweating and feeling hot overnight.
Soy And Other Plant Sources For Menopause Symptoms
Isoflavones are chemical compounds found in soy and other plants that are phytoestrogens, or plant-derived estrogens. They have a chemical structure that is similar to the estrogens naturally produced by the body, but their effectiveness as an estrogen has been determined to be much lower than true estrogens.
Some studies have shown that these compounds may help relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. In particular, women who have had breast cancer and do not want to take hormone therapy with estrogen sometimes use soy products for relief of menopausal symptoms. However, some phytoestrogens can actually have anti-estrogenic properties in certain situations, and the overall risks of these preparations have not yet been determined.
There is also a perception among many women that plant estrogens are natural and therefore safer than hormone therapy, but this has never been proven scientifically. Further research is needed to fully characterize the safety and potential risks of phytoestrogens.
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What Causes Hot Flashes Other Than Menopause
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content. A multilingual Latina, Cristina’s work has appeared on CNN and its platforms, local news affiliates across the country, and in the promotion of medical journal articles and public health messaging.
Hot flashes are commonly associated with menopause, but they can also be caused by a variety of different lifestyle factors or medical conditions, and they are not always a sign of something serious.
A hot flash is a feeling of sudden intense heat on the upper body lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes or longer. The feeling is often joined by other symptoms like sweating, reddening of the skin, dizziness, and heart palpitations.
While there are other possible causes, hot flashes are extremely common when people are going through perimenopause/menopause.
Hot flashes happen when the bodys internal thermostat senses that its too warm. This starts a chain of events where your heart beats faster, your sweat glands spring into action, and the blood vessels that are near the skins surface widen to cool the body off.
Buyer Beware: Unproven Nonscientific ‘treatments’ For Hot Flashes
You may have heard about black cohosh, DHEA, or soy isoflavones to treat hot flashes. These products are not proven to be effective, and some carry risks such as liver damage.
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances found in some cereals, vegetables, and legumes , and herbs. They may work in the body like a weak form of estrogen, but they have not been consistently shown to be effective in research studies, and their long-term safety is unclear.
Always talk with your doctor before taking any . Currently, it is unknown whether these herbs or other “natural” products are helpful or safe to treat your hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms. The benefits and risks are still being studied.
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How Hot Flushes May Feel
Hot flushes can vary from one person to another. They can start as a feeling of warmth in your neck or face. This often spreads to other parts of your body. You might have:
- reddening of the skin
- feelings of your heart beating in your chest
- feelings of panic or irritability
Hot flushes can last between 2 to 30 minutes. You may have a few a month or more often. The flushes usually last for a few months but for some people they carry on for longer.
They can be disruptive and might make sleeping difficult.
Hormonal Treatments For Vasomotor Symptoms
Menopausal hormone therapy is very effective for treating vasomotor symptoms that are moderate to very severe. Women who have had a hysterectomy can take estrogen alone. A woman who still has her uterus will be prescribed a combination of estrogen and progestin. Progestin is needed to reduce the risk of uterine cancer.
However, because MHT is associated with heart attacks, breast cancer, blood clots, and strokes in older postmenopausal women, women are advised to use the smallest dose for the shortest amount of time possible .
Women of a certain age with a history of certain conditions, including breast cancer, coronary heart disease, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke should consider alternatives to hormone therapy. Women at high risk for these complications should also consider alternatives.
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Hot Flushes And Sweats
Hot flushes and sweats are the most common symptoms of the menopause and can affect three out of every four menopausal women*. Characterised by sudden feelings of heat which seem to come from nowhere and spread upwards through the body, the chest, neck and face, hot flushes and sweats are probably caused by changes in hormone levels which affect the bodys temperature control. Women talked about their experiences of hot flushes and sweats, the effect on their life, and what they did to relieve the symptoms.Hot flushesSome women we talked with had either not had flushes at all, had noticed just occasional mild feelings of warmth lasting seconds, or had simply not been bothered by them. Others, however, had more intense hot flushes which happened throughout the day and night, lasting several minutes or longer and accompanied by sweating, dizziness, light-headedness and heart palpitations. One woman said she had about twenty hot flushes a day another flushed every ten minutes throughout the day .
How Long Do Hot Flashes Last
The intensity and frequency of hot flashes vary. Some people experience them multiple times a day, and others will only have the occasional hot flash. Hot flash episodes usually last anywhere from one to five minutes at a time.
On average, hot flash symptoms last for seven or more years before and after menopause, though some people may have them for 10 years or longer.
The time at which you first start having hot flashes may indicate how long youll get them. For example, research has found that people who had hot flashes before menopause experienced them for nearly 12 years, compared to people who had their first hot flash after menopause, who experienced them for three years, on average.
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How Long Does It Last
The average hot flash lasts from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Everyone gets them with a different frequency and intensity.
In most people experiencing it during menopause, hot flashes last between 6 months and 2 years. Often this symptom will stop once youve completed the menopause transition.
Up to half of women report continued hot flashes for a few years after menopause. Some keep getting them for 10 years or more well into their 70s or 80s. Things like your genes and hormone levels will dictate when this symptom stops.
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Medications: Treating Hot Flashes And Night Sweats With Hormones
Some women may choose to take hormones to treat their hot flashes. A hormone is a chemical substance made by an organ like the thyroid gland or ovary. During the menopausal transition, the ovaries begin to work less and less well, and the production of hormones like estrogen and progesterone declines over time. It is believed that such changes cause hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
Hormone therapy steadies the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. It is a very effective treatment for hot flashes in women who are able to use it. There are risks associated with taking hormones, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and dementia. The risks vary by a womans age and whether she has had a hysterectomy. Women are encouraged to discuss the risks with their healthcare provider.
Women who still have a uterus should take estrogen combined with progesterone or another therapy to protect the uterus. Progesterone is added to estrogen to protect the uterus against cancer, but it also seems to increase the risk of blood clots and stroke. Hormones should be used at the lowest dose that is effective for the shortest period of time possible.
Some women should not use hormones for their hot flashes. You should not take hormones for menopausal symptoms if:
Talk with your doctor to find out if taking hormones to treat your symptoms is right for you.
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On A Bad Night Christina Wakes Up Drenched And Has To Get Up And Wash Before Trying To Get Back
The night sweats are terrible. It doesnt matter whether I go to bed with nothing on and I sleep on my own, and I will still wake up absolutely drenched. And I can have a sheet over me and that will be wringing wet in the morning as well so its like having to go to sleep with towels. And I dont have a plastic cover on my mattress because that tends to aggravate the situation so its just me having towels underneath me so you wake up with marks all over your back and everything else. But, even just going with no sheet you still have the sweats.So this is even in winter you are sleeping with a sheet.Yeah. Windows open and everything else so just trying to calm that down.And how many times would you be woken up at night?On a bad night at least three or four times and then having to go and get washed and try and dry off and everything else and change everything and then try and get back to sleep again.So you actually change your clothing and your bedding do you?Yeah, if Im wearing like a cotton nightie. That all has to come off. The towels that are on top of the sheets have to come off and be changed again. And then I go to the other side of the bed and try and make sure that youre sleeping on a dry patch. I mean Im quite lucky because I am on my own and I dont have to disturb anybody.