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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Hot flashes (referred to in the United Kingdom as hot flushes or, at night, night sweats) is a symptom of the changing hormone levels that are considered to be characteristic of menopause.

Description

Hot flashes are typically experienced as a feeling of intense heat with sweating and rapid heartbeat, and may typically last from two to thirty minutes for each occurrence. The event may be repeated a few times each week or constantly throughout the day, with the frequency reducing over time. Excessive flushing can lead to rosacea.

Some women undergoing menopause never have hot flashes. Others have mild or infrequent flashes. The worst sufferers experience dozens of hot flashes each day. Severe hot flashes can make it difficult to get a full night's sleep, which in turn can affect mood, concentration, and cause other physical problems. When hot flashes occur at night, they are called "night sweats." As estrogen is typically lowest at night, a woman might get night sweats without having any hot flashes during the daytime.

In younger women

Younger women who are menstruating or expecting to menstruate soon (the premenstrual period typically lasts one week) may encounter hot and/or cold flashes. These episodes do not usually last long, with feelings of cold and heat alternating over the course of as short as a minute. Hot and cold flashes for younger women tend to occur only during times of menstruation or premenstruation (when estrogen is typically lowest). If they occur at other times in a young woman's menstrual cycle, then it might be a symptom of a problem with her pituitary gland; seeing a doctor is highly recommended.

In younger women who are surgically menopausal, hot flashes are generally more intense than in older women, and they may last until natural age at menopause.


Causes

Life Threatening Causes

Life-threatening causes include conditions which may result in death or permanent disability within 24 hours if left untreated.

Common Causes

Causes by Organ System

Cardiovascular No underlying causes
Chemical/Poisoning No underlying causes
Dental No underlying causes
Dermatologic No underlying causes
Drug Side Effect Bicalutamide, Doxorubicin Hydrochloride, Goserelin, Hydroxocobalamin, Letrozole, Leuprolide, Milnacipran hydrochloride, Nabilone, Ospemifene, Polidocanol, Rifaximin, Toremifene,
Ear Nose Throat No underlying causes
Endocrine No underlying causes
Environmental No underlying causes
Gastroenterologic No underlying causes
Genetic No underlying causes
Hematologic No underlying causes
Iatrogenic No underlying causes
Infectious Disease No underlying causes
Musculoskeletal/Orthopedic No underlying causes
Neurologic No underlying causes
Nutritional/Metabolic No underlying causes
Obstetric/Gynecologic No underlying causes
Oncologic No underlying causes
Ophthalmologic No underlying causes
Overdose/Toxicity No underlying causes
Psychiatric No underlying causes
Pulmonary No underlying causes
Renal/Electrolyte No underlying causes
Rheumatology/Immunology/Allergy No underlying causes
Sexual No underlying causes
Trauma No underlying causes
Urologic No underlying causes
Miscellaneous No underlying causes

Causes in Alphabetical Order

Order|here]]

Treatment

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may relieve many of the symptoms of menopause. However, HRT increases the risk of breast cancer, stroke, and dementia and has other potentially serious short-term and long-term risks[2].

The U.S. FDA and women's health advocates recommend that women who experience troublesome hot flashes try alternatives to hormonal therapies as the first line of treatment. If a woman chooses hormones, they suggest she take the lowest dose that alleviates her symptoms for as short a time as possible.

In addition to traditional hormone replacement therapies, there are other strategies and natural supplements available to try. Such natural supplements include Yam (vegetable), black cohosh, and evening primrose. These natural supplements are used in natural creams and lotions.

Dietary and behavior strategies

  • Dietary changes may relieve hot flashes. This includes avoiding caffeine, hot drinks, chocolate, spicy or hot foods and alcohol.
  • Wearing clothes in layers – both during the day and at night - allows a woman to shed clothing quickly when a hot flash occurs.
  • Two studies have found that slow, deep breathing reduced the frequency of hot flashes. In one study, this paced respiration decreased hot flashes by 39 percent and in the other by 44 percent. By comparison, this same research study found that progressive muscle relaxation was not effective in relieving hot flashes.

Other

There are many other ailments than can cause hot flashes. For example, men who are castrated typically get hot flashes.

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