All you Need to Know about Menopausal Hot Flashes

About 1.3 million people enter menopause every year, and according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), about 3 in every 4 of them will experience those most-famous-of-all menopause symptoms : hot flashes .

You may think it is a brief, but intense, sensation of warmth spreading across your face and body, if you have never had one. There's more to this sensation than you might think.

Mary Jane Minkin MD is a clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven. She founded Madame Ovary.

What can you expect from a hot flush? Or, even more important, what will happen when they stop? We have the answer to many of your most common questions.

Why do hot flashes occur during menopause

Although hot flashes are common, there is much that researchers do not know. This includes why they happen. According to Dr. Minkin, the most common theory behind hot flashes in menopause is that they are caused hormonal changes, such as a decrease in estrogen , that happen before, during and after menopause.

Your hypothalamus (the brain region that regulates the body's internal temperature) may be tricked by this. As a result, the blood vessels in your body expand (vasodilate), increasing blood flow to your skin and allowing more heat to escape. You get a hot flash.

Are there any hot flashes that can be triggered?

The hot flash triggers can be anything from intense emotions to spicy foods and hot beverages to heat. According to her, hot baths, too much clothing, and excessive heat can all trigger hot flashes.

Alcohol and caffeine are also common triggers. Sometimes, stress can cause a flash of lightning. Kristi Tough-DeSapri MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and internal medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago, says "Some women report feeling anxious or angry."

Are hot flashes associated with menopause common?

NAMS estimates that 75 percent of women experience hot flashes during perimenopause , which is the period between four and eight years before actual menopause. This refers to when a woman has gone twelve consecutive months without having menstruated. Hormones start to fluctuate, and periods can become unpredictable and inconsistent during perimenopause.

The Journal Menopause published a study that found hot flashes were described as severe by 9 percent of the people, while 56 percent refer to them as moderate intensity and 33 percent as mild.

When do hot flashes of menopause begin to occur?

"Generally, the most intense symptoms are one to two years before and after the final menstrual period," explains Dr. DeSapri. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the menopausal transition generally begins between 45-55 years of age and can last up to seven years.

What is the average duration of hot flashes for?

NAMS says that hot flashes due to menopause can last from 6 months to 2 years for the majority. DeSapri says that some women can have them for up to 10 years.

Minkin estimates that 10 percent to 15% of women will experience hot flashes after 10 years. For a few women, however, they will not disappear.

Black women might also experience more intense hot flashes that white women. In February 2022, research from SWAN, which tracks around 3,300 women in their 40s, showed that Black women are 50 percent more likely than women of the same age to experience hot flashes or night sweats. Night sweats, which are basically hot flashes occurring while you sleep and waking you at night, can be described as "hot flashes". They were more likely to occur at least once a day.

However, each woman's body is different so it is impossible to predict how long.

Are there other conditions that could be causing hot flashes than menopause.

Yes. Although hot flashes may be common early in pregnancy, they could also be an indication of hyperthyroidism. Minkin advises doctors to perform a pregnancy and thyroid test on their patients before they assume that hot flashes may be related to menopause.

You'd be shocked at the number of women who are late-twenties and have hot flashes, she said. She says that if a pregnancy test results are negative and the thyroid tests are normal, hot flashes could be due to menopause.

Are you able to do something about hot flashes

Hot flashes in menopause can not be prevented but can be controlled. Hot flashes are often a sign that women have to endure them, says Lauren Streicher MD, medical director at the Northwestern Medicine Center for Menopause in Chicago.

It is a good idea to look for a specialist in menopause via NAMS's directory. This allows you search by your zip code.

Hot flashes can be relieved by lifestyle modifications. For those who are unable to lose weight, or for people who smoke, these lifestyle changes can help.

In Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, a pilot study found that hot flashes were less common in those who had lost over 10 percent of body weight. Minkin says that fat acts as an insulation. Minkin says that the greater the body fat, the more difficult it will be to heat dissipate from hot flashes.

Maturitas. A International Journal of Midlife Health and Beyond also found that women who gave up smoking had less hot flashes and were more likely to experience severe hot flushes. It is unclear why women who stop smoking are less affected.

Hormone therapy can also be used to alleviate hot flashes. Hormone therapy is only available if you have a female uterus. According to the Cleveland Clinic, estrogen therapy without progesterone may increase your risk of developing cancer in the endometrium or uterine line.

To reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes, antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be prescribed. Although most SSRIs can be used off-label for hot flashes, one of these drugs, paroxetine has been approved to treat them by the Food and Drug Administration.

People will make lifestyle and other changes. Some may also try botanicals, such as black cohosh, red clover, and chasteberry. Dr. Streicher believes that the effects of these botanicals (if any) could be explained by the placebo effect. A May 2014 Planta Medica article concluded there was not sufficient data supporting the use of botanicals for hot flashes relief .