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Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms associated with the menopause journey
Hot flashes - also called hot flushes – occur through the menopause transition and after, and they are also referred to as vasomotor symptoms or VMS. Women often describe them as a sudden feeling of heat in the face, neck, chest, or back. They can come on without warning and may be accompanied with flushed skin, sweating, or chills.
WHAT ARE HOT FLASHES?
Hot flashes are the most common symptoms of menopause. You may hear the medical term vasomotor symptoms or VMS to describe them. Women with hot flashes may experience a sudden feeling of extreme heat in the upper body, sometimes accompanied by a flush on the face and neck. Hot flashes may occur with sweating followed by cold chills. When they happen at night, they are known as night sweats and sometimes impact sleeping.
WHAT CAUSES HOT FLASHES?
Menopause in women is a natural condition caused by changes in the levels of reproductive hormones such as estrogen. Hot flashes are often considered its cardinal symptom. However, it’s not exactly clear what causes the hot flashes themselves. In general, it is thought that a women’s hypothalamus – the organ that regulates body temperature in the body – becomes too sensitive. The length, intensity, and frequency of hot flashes vary from woman to woman. Some women experience them rarely or not at all – while others have hot flashes several times in a day (or night).
In most cases, hot flashes are common in the early stages of menopause, especially in the year before and the year after a woman stops getting her period. However, hot flashes can continue for years after menopause.
WHO GETS HOT FLASHES AND WHY?
Most women begin noticing vasomotor symptoms or hot flashes during the onset of menopause. However, the length, frequency, and duration of hot flashes vary depend on the woman. There are several factors that have been found to be associated with hot flashes. For example, some women discuss triggers for hot flashes like caffeine, alcohol, or spicy food. Also, smoking and obesity may cause hot flashes to be more frequent or severe.
HOW ARE HOT FLASHES DIAGNOSED?
A healthcare provider can usually diagnose hot flashes using a patient’s clinical history. The doctor may speak with a patient about her menstrual cycle as well as the frequency and severity of a patient’s symptoms to appropriately diagnose hot flashes. On the other hand, if the patient describes symptoms that are unusual or the woman is not at the right age to consider menopause, the diagnosis may be more complicated. A doctor might choose to order hormone levels or other tests to confirm a diagnosis.
HOW ARE HOT FLASHES TREATED?
There are many different ways women and their doctors can approach hot flashes – both to help prevent them and manage when them they do occur. Women are encouraged to speak with their doctor about the best options for them. There are even menopause specialists who deal specifically with symptoms associated with menopause like hot flashes.