Are hot flashes waking you up at night? Are they embarrassing you at work in front of coworkers? Do they cause you anxiety, distress or loss of focus?
You are not alone!
Hot flashes are the second most common symptom of menopause (after irregular bleeding). They are caused when your body wants to let off some heat. Blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate to let off heat and blood vessels in the core of your body shunt blood to the surface to fill those dilated blood vessels. After the heat comes out and the skin sweats, it’s not uncommon to feel chilled a few minutes later. For some women, this process can last half an hour or more.
Here are some of the common questions I get about hot flashes:
- How long will they last? For most women they begin a few years before menopause in what’s called perimenopause and continue for a few years after menopause (natural menopause is defined as your final menstrual period; surgical menopause happens when your ovaries are removed before menopause). New studies show that for some women, they will last over 10 years and for about 6.5% of women, they will continue well into the 60’s.
- What causes hot flashes? A specific answer isn’t know. It’s a problem with the temperature regulation portion of the brain – kind of like the thermostat is broken.
- How often do they happen? They can happen as occasionally as every few days to every few minutes. Some hot flashes are just a mild annoyance, and others can be quite severe and disruptive making if difficult to work, play or even to think.
- What triggers them? They can be triggered by a number of things. For some women, alcohol, spicy foods and a heated room are all triggers. Click here for a complimentary download of 10 Mistakes Women Make that Trigger Hot Flashes.
- Are hot flashes dangerous? Typically they are not. But they can cause difficulty with sleep, work and concentration. If they are severe or frequent, they can be a marker for some important illnesses such as osteoporosis or heart disease.
- How do I treat them? There are a number of treatments that include estrogen, prescription medications that are not estrogen, over the counter agents, life-style changes and behavioral changes.
The good news is that even though hot flashes can cause you to feel like you’re living in hot flash hell, life doesn’t have to be that way. You can begin by discovering ways to avoid them. And if that doesn’t work, stay tuned, we’ll discuss ways you can turn down the heat and cool down the flame.