Hot Flashes Causes, Symptoms & Medication Treatment in Men and Women
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Hot flashes definition and facts
- What are hot flashes?
- How long do hot flashes last?
- What causes hot flashes?
- Signs and symptoms: What do hot flashes feel like?
- How is the cause of hot flashes diagnosed?
- What are the treatments for hot flashes?
- Hormone therapy for hot flashes
- Bioidentical hormone therapy for hot flashes
- Other prescription drug treatments for hot flashes
- What natural and home remedies treat hot flashes?
- Black cohosh for hot flashes
- Soy and other plant sources for menopause symptoms
- Other vitamins, herbs, and supplements
- Which type of doctor treats hot flashes?
- Can hot flashes be prevented?
- Find a local Endocrinologist in your town
Hot flashes definition and facts
- Hot flashes are feelings of warmth that spread over the body and last from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
- Hot flashes may be accompanied by redness of the skin, known as flushing, and excessive sweating.
- Hot flashes are a characteristic symptom of the menopausal transition (perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause) in women, but may occasionally result from other medical conditions.
- About 70% of women will experience hot flashes at some point in the menopausal transition.
- Hot flashes in men, young women, or during pregnancy may be due to medical conditions that interfere with the body’s ability regulate temperature.
- Hot flashes may be treated by hormone therapy or other medications if necessary.
- Natural home remedies for hot flashes have been proposed and may provide relief for some women; the effectiveness of other alternative treatments has not been adequately scientifically evaluated.
What are hot flashes?
A hot flash is a sensation of heat that begins in the head and neck regions. Hot flashes are a common symptom experienced by women prior to, and during the early stages of the menopausal transition. However, not all women approaching the menopause will develop hot flashes.
How long do hot flashes last?
Hot flashes are typically brief, lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes.
The question of how long during a woman's lifetime that hot flashes last is a different one. Traditionally, it was believed that women only experienced hot flashes for a few years. More recent data suggest that many women may experience hot flashes for longer time periods. In a study from the University of Pennsylvania, the mean duration of hot flashes was 4.9 years, but up to a third of women continued to have hot flashes for up to 10 years. In the Study of Women Across the Nation (SWAN), women had hot flashes for an average of 7.4 years total and for an average of 4.5 years after the last menstrual period.
What causes 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 (methods the body uses to control and regulate body temperature) 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 (such as young women or during pregnancy) 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.
Signs and symptoms: What do hot flashes feel like?
- Hot flashes are typically brief, lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes.
- Redness of the skin, known as flushing, may accompany hot flashes.
- Excessive perspiration (sweating) can also occur; when hot flashes occur during sleep they may be accompanied by night sweats.
- Feelings of anxiety may accompany hot flashes.
- Occasionally, palpitations (feelings of a racing heart beat) may occur during hot flashes.
The timing of the onset of hot flashes in women approaching menopause is variable.
- While not all women will experience hot flashes, many normally menstruating women will begin experiencing hot flashes even several years prior to the cessation of menstrual periods.
- It is impossible to predict if a woman will experience hot flashes, and if she does, when they will begin.
- About 40% to 85% of women experience hot flashes at some point in the menopausal transition.
How is the cause of hot flashes diagnosed?
Hot flashes are a symptom, not a medical condition. Taking a thorough medical history, the health-care professional will usually be able to determine whether a woman is having hot flashes. The patient will be asked to describe the hot flashes, including how often and when they occur, and if there are other associated symptoms. A physical examination together with the medical history can help determine the cause of the hot flashes and direct further testing if necessary.
Blood tests may be performed if the diagnosis is unclear, either to measure hormone levels or to look for signs of other conditions (such as infection) that could be responsible for the hot flashes.
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