Menopause is the natural and permanent stopping of the monthly periods, which occurs when a woman is between 45 to 50 years of age. The ovaries are not able to produce an egg or ovum every month and, thus stop producing the female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). The absence of the menstrual cycle for 1 year is called menopause. Perimenopause is the period (1 or 2 years) before menopause when the menstrual cycles become irregular and ultimately stop. Women undergoing menopause experience many symptoms, one of which is hot flashes.
What are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes, also called night sweats, are feelings of sudden, intensely hot sensations in a part of or over the entire body. These can come with or without warning and often last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Hot flashes are among the most frequent complaints of women during perimenopause and menopause.
What Causes Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are mostly caused by the hormonal changes that occur at menopause, but can also be affected by lifestyle and medications. A decreased level of oestrogen is mostly responsible for hot flashes.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hot Flashes?
Each woman may have different signs and symptoms of different duration and intensity. Some of the signs and symptoms seen are as below:
- Sudden, intense sensations of heat on the face, neck, arms, upper body and, sometimes, the whole body.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse.
- Flushing, or reddened face and neck.
- Sweating (mild to severe).
- Cold chills often follow hot flashes. Sometimes, women may experience only the chills.
- Sleep disturbances due to hot flashes at night.
- Other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, anxiety and headaches.
Hot flashes can be triggered under the following conditions:
- Warm environments (i.e. hot weather, rooms, beds, saunas and showers).
- Stress and anxiety.
- Hot and spicy foods.
- Overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
- Some medicines such as diet pills, raloxifene, tegretol, etc.
In some women, hot flashes occur during perimenopause and, in some, during or after menopause (i.e. 1 or 2 years before the last period and after the periods stop). The average duration of hot flashes is about 2 years, but it may last for many years.
How Long Does a Hot Flash Event Last?
A typical hot flash event lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. However, it can take up to 30 minutes for a woman to feel normal again after a hot flash.
How Frequently do Hot Flashes Occur?
The frequency of hot flashes varies from woman to woman; some experience it once in a while and others can have up to twenty hot flashes each day. Hot flashes can occur in the morning or/and at night. Hot flashes are most likely to strike in these two time spans because the oestrogen level appears to be the lowest at these times.
How to Manage Hot Flashes?
Women who experience hot flashes can manage their frequency and/or severity with the help of lifestyle changes and medication.
Immediate management of hot flashes
- Try to relax.
- Try to cool down the body temperature by using a water spray or moistened cloth, or switch on the fan/air conditioner.
- Drink cold water to decrease the body temperature.
Long-term management of hot flashes
- Lifestyle changes
- Wear absorbent cotton clothing and use cotton linens.
- Take a cool shower before going to bed.
- Sleep near an open window.
- Avoid hot baths or showers before going to bed.
- Practice meditation, yoga, relaxation and breathing exercises.
- Exercise regularly.
- Diet modification
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy food and smoking.
- Drink plenty of fluids such as cold water, coconut water, juices, etc.
- Keep ice water or another non- caffeinated cold beverage on hand.
- Consult your doctor before taking any vitamins/soy protein supplements.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), consisting of oestrogen and/or progesterone.
CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY MEDICINES.
- Wear absorbent cotton clothing
- Take a cool shower before going to bed
- Exercise regularly
- Practice meditation, yoga, relaxation and breathing exercises
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Hot baths or showers just before going to bed
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR