Hot flashes are typically associated with some twisted rite of passage into menopause. Many women believe that they are a normal part of aging and don't seek treatment for them. Hot flashes are one of the most prevalent symptoms of menopause and can begin years before it begins and last for up to 10 years. Depending on the severity, hot flashes can interfere with sleep patterns and daily life. Hot flashes don't have to run your life. Embracing these "power surges" will help put you on the path to effective management.
A hot flash is a sudden rush of warmth that is the most intense in the face, chest, and neck. They can last anywhere from one to ten minutes. They typically happen between the ages of 45-55 and are experienced by up to 70% of women going through menopause. The skin might redden, you may sweat, and you may get a chill as it goes away. You may also have a rapid heartbeat. Hot flashes that occur at night are called night sweats.
There is not a defined cause of hot flashes. It is suspected that changes in reproductive hormones (estrogen) and the hypothalamus (the body's thermostat) are the culprits. Not all women will get hot flashes when they go through menopause, but certain factors increase your risk of developing them:
- Smoking - Women smokers are at an increased risk of developing hot flashes.
- Obesity - A higher body mass index (BMI) increases the frequency of hot flashes.
- Ethnicity - Hot flashes affect African American women more than any other ethnicity.
Frequency and severity will differ from woman to woman. They can happen multiple times per hour, a few times a day, or once or twice per week. There are hot flash rating scales that exist, but the severity is still most commonly (and more reliably) self-reported by the patient. Mild symptoms don't interfere with life, and many women choose not to see treatment. More severe hot flash symptoms strike 20-30 times per day and night, impacting the quality of life.
Prolonged lack of sleep can cause chronic insomnia, which is a contributing factor for heart disease and bone loss.
Hot Flash Treatment Through Clinical Research
Other medical conditions can cause hot flashes, so it is essential that if your hot flashes are interfering with daily life, talk to your doctor. Hormone therapy, antidepressants, and anti-seizure meds are all approved treatments that can help reduce frequency and severity. Your doctor will work with you to find the best approach.
While there are many treatment options for hot flashes, effective relief remains out of reach for some women. Clinical research studies are vital to ensuring proper treatment for all women by studying new possible treatment options. Currently, Centex Studies is enrolling female participants in a hot flash study. To learn more about this study, click here.