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.
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.
Perimenopause Symptoms And Signs
Perimenopause describes the time period when a woman is approaching menopause. During this time is when symptoms and signs begin. Examples include, weight gain, vaginal dryness, mood changes, painful sex, and hot flashes.
The complex hormonal changes that accompany the aging process, in particular the declining levels of estrogen as a woman approaches menopause, are thought to be the underlying cause of hot flashes. A disorder in thermoregulation is responsible for the heat sensation, but the exact way in which the changing hormone levels affect thermoregulation is not fully understood.
Hot flashes are considered to be a characteristic symptom of the menopausal transition. They also occur in men and in circumstances other than the perimenopause in women as a result of certain uncommon medical conditions that affect the process of thermoregulation. For example, the carcinoid syndrome, which results from a type of endocrine tumor that secretes large amounts of the hormone serotonin can cause hot flashes. Hot flashes can also develop as a side effect of some medications and sometimes occur with severe infections or cancers that may be associated with fevers and/or night sweats.
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Q: Can Other Conditions Cause Hot Flashes
A:Yes. In addition to menopause-related hormonal changes, some medical conditions can also cause hot flashes. In some cases, it is not always safe to assume that hot flashes are caused by menopause. This is particularly true for women who are not likely going through menopause or for those who have other unusual symptoms.
- Gonadotropin analogues
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 woman’s 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.
Treatment Of Hot Flushes
Alternative Herbal Therapies:
Based on current research, black cohosh is most likely to relieve symptoms related to reductions or imbalances in the hormone oestrogen
Black cohosh is an herb native to Eastern North America.
Various studies conducted on black cohosh have shown potential benefits for people with menopausal symptoms however evidence of effectiveness is inconclusive.
Due to this and possible side effects on the liver and liver damage, use of Black Cohosh is not recommended long term.
Based on current research, black cohosh is most likely to relieve symptoms related to reductions or imbalances in the hormone estrogen
Red Clover is a plant native to Europe, Western Asia and Northwest Africa. The flower top is the section of the plant that is used to produce medicinal products.
There have been mixed findings on the effectiveness of Red Clover for the treatment of hot flushes, night sweats and breast tenderness. Some research has shown that taking red clover by mouth for up to one year does not reduce these symptoms although some evidence suggests that certain products containing red clover reduces the severity of symptoms but not the frequency.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Oestrogen only hormone therapy
Oestrogen only HRT can come in many forms:
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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.
Sociocultural Issues In Measuring Hot Flashes
Hot flashes occur worldwide, and starting in the 1970s, research documenting such occurrence increased substantially. A wide distribution of the prevalence of hot flashes around the globe continues to be examined, with reports, particularly in Asian countries, of prevalence less than that in the US and other Western countries . Interest in understanding these differences has raised questions about whether these differences are due to genetic, cultural, environmental, or lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.
Research in Japan has provided particular insight. Japanese women have a high dietary intake of soy and it was hypothesized that this might explain why they have fewer hot flashes than women in the US, Canada, and Europe. Basic science research has established that isoflavones have estrogen-like activity . Interest in the relationship between the soy consumption of different populations and hot flash prevalence led to epidemiological studies comparing level of dietary soy intake and frequency of hot flashes in countries such as Japan, where an inverse association between soy intake and hot flashes has been demonstrated . Clinical studies of soy foods and soy isoflavones to treat hot flashes proliferated, with mixed results, although there was a tendency toward a beneficial effect .
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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.
Hot Flashes And Menopause: Whats The Connection
5 MINUTE READ
Medically reviewed by: Sharon D. Malone, M.D., FACOG, CNMP
Remember when you were constantly begging everyone around you to turn up the thermostat in the winter and sheesh, stop cranking the AC so high in the summer? Or maybe you always ran just a little bit hot.
Either way, you can no longer deny that something strange has been happening lately: Every now and then or, if youre unlucky, several times an hour you feel a sudden, intense wave of heat crashing over your body. Your face and neck get red, you become drenched with sweat, and your heart feels like its beating more quickly.
Holy hot flash! If youre in perimenopause the transition that starts a few years before the total absence of your periods theres a good chance youre dealing with hot flashes. About 75 percent of women in North America experience hot flashes as they get closer to menopause. For some, the problem is mild or fleeting, but at least a quarter of those who get them are pretty miserable about it. In this article, we are going to discuss the hot flashes menopause relationship so you have a better idea of what to expect and how to treat them.
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What Causes And Triggers Hot Flushes
Hot flushes can be caused by hormonal fluctuations in the early stages of menopause and continue long after menopause has passed. They may only last a few months, but usually they will continue for many years.
Oestrogen levels decline in menopause and this appears to be the most common cause of hot flushes in women. These lower levels of oestrogen have a significant effect on the hypothalamus. Located in the brain, the hypothalamus controls the sex hormones, body temperature, sleep function and even appetite.
Although not completely understood, it is thought that the fall in oestrogen levels somehow affect the hypothalamus causing confusion whereby it senses that the body temperature is too hot, thus triggering hot flushes which is designed to cool down the body. More blood rushes to the skin, causing redness and sweating.
Hot flushes occur in the winter and the summer but seem to be more common in the summer months. Women having hot flushes often find themselves opening windows and doors or putting on the fan in the wintertime because they feel overheated. This can be inconvenient to those around who do feel the cold.
Other Factors that cause hot flushes:
The Benefits Of Progesterone
It turns out that estrogen withdrawal leads to hot flashes and night sweats. In other words, the brain gets used to higher estrogen levels and reacts to the decrease by releasing the stress hormone norepinephrine, which causes altered temperature responses.
Although progesterone has not been tested in a large controlled trial, progesterone also doesnt seem to cause the blood clots, heart disease or breast cancer associated with estrogen or estrogen-progestin menopausal hormone therapy.
In our randomized trial of progesterone or placebo for the treatment of vasomotor symptoms we also measured changes in weight, blood pressure, waist size, fasting glucose, blood lipids, a marker of inflammation and one of blood-clot risks. The changes with progesterone did not differ from changes on placebo, meaning that it had neither positive or negative effects on these factors.
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What Is A Hypothalamus
As we enter perimenopause around age 43, 44 or 45, our hypothalamus becomes more sensitive and the result is, well, anything but fun.; When I dig into this most research will suggest that hot flashes can occur as we experience decreased estrogen levels over time.; Decreasing estrogen can start as early as 30 and escalates at 51 during technical menopause. The hormone decline basically causes your body’s thermostat to become super sensitive to any slight changes in body temperature.
When the hypothalamus is triggered by a signal that your body is too warm, it starts a chain of events the actual hot flash to cool you down. It doesnt make sense right. Why would a slight variation cause a hot flash; – which is a heat sensation not a cooling sensation. The truth is that scientific research still has not isolated the sequence of precise events so of course it;makes it difficult to stop. We do know that hot flashes and the night sweats that so often go right alongside them, are rarely NOT caused by perimenopause and menopause.;;;
Own Your Menopause Journey
While estrogenic foods , , supplements and medically prescribed anti-depressants have been shown to lessen symptoms in some women, these protocols are not suggested for cancer survivors, women with cardiovascular disease or those who have had a blood clot. Also, today many women prefer to handle the situation as naturally as possible, and thankfully there have been great strides made in this arena as well. Read on!;
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What Are Hot Flushes
Hot flushes are described as a sudden feeling of heat or warmth often accompanied by profuse sweating. It may also present itself as:
- Increased heart rate
- Red or flushed face
- Heat affecting the whole body
Hot flushes can continue for up to 30 minutes or more at a time or may be as short as just a few seconds. The sensation often begins in the face or chest and may spread throughout the body. The surface of the skin often feels hot to the touch.Hot flushes can sometimes be associated with other symptoms such as:
- General feeling of being unwell
- Sleeplessness â constantly being woken by overheating and night sweats
- An overactive mind
Lifestyle Changes To Improve Hot Flashes
Before considering medication, first try making changes to your lifestyle. Doctors recommend women make changes like these for at least 3 months before starting any medication.
If hot flashes are keeping you up at night, keep your bedroom cooler and try drinking small amounts of cold water before bed. Layer your bedding so it can be adjusted as needed. Some women find a device called a bed fan helpful. Here are some other lifestyle changes you can make:
- Dress in layers, which can be removed at the start of a hot flash.
- Carry a portable fan to use when a hot flash strikes.
- Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse.
- If you smoke, try to quit, not only for menopausal symptoms, but for your overall health.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese may experience more frequent and severe hot flashes.
- Try mind-body practices like yoga or other self-calming techniques. Early-stage research has shown that mindfulness meditation, yoga, and tai chi may help improve menopausal symptoms.
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How Long Will I Be Having Hot Flushes For
Each woman is different and therefore their symptoms, severity and duration of symptoms will be different. According to a recent study carried out in the United States called the Study of Womenâs Health Across the Nation , vasomotor symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats will last between 7 to 11 years.
One factor determining the duration of these symptoms is the timing of the onset of hot flushes and night sweats. If a woman begins to experience these symptoms prior to cessation of menstruation or during the peri-menopause stage then the symptoms average more than 11 years while women who are already post menopausal at the onset of symptoms averaged 3.4 years.