Hot Flashes are experienced by about 75% of women as they approach menopause. Hot flashes are characterized by a sense of warmth, generally in the upper chest, face and scalp region and are accompanied by perspiration and a flushed appearance. Many women also experience an increased heart rate, weakness and even dizziness. Hot flashes may start years before a woman experiences menopause and will continue for 5 yrs in about 80 % of the women who experience them. In about 10 % of women, hot flashes will last up to 10 yrs.
No one knows what causes hot flashes, but they are correlated with declining estrogen levels. Many hot flashes occur at night, when estrogen levels are lowest. Women who smoke, are overweight, or are African American are at increased risk of developing hot flashes.
Not all hot flashes are due to menopause. Narcotic withdrawal, hyperthyroidism and panic attacks can all produce very similar symptoms.
There are several potential treatments for menopausal hot flashes. Black Cohosh is an herb that has been used extensively in Europe. Most doctors recommend you do not use it for more than 6 months at a time. Soy contains plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) and as such may offer some relief of hot flashes. Evening primrose oil, flax, and vitamin E have all been used with limited success.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be prescribed for women who have debilitating of lifestyle limiting hot flashes. Interestingly, progesterone alone will improve hot flashes in 83% of women. This is because some of the progesterone is converted by the body into estradiol, the most potent naturally occurring human estrogen. Premenopausal women needing hormones are generally treated with progesterone alone. Post menopausal women, or post hysterectomy patients can be placed on bio identical estrogen in the form of a topical creme or a patch.
If you are experiencing severe hot flashes, we encourage you to speak with your doctor. If you do not have one, simply fill out the online new patient application and label it “HRT” and our staff will contact you and set up an appointment with one of our medical providers experienced with bio identical hormone replacement therapy.
Disclaimer: My blog posts on the Prime Care website are meant for informational purposes only and are not intended to be considered as medical advice or as a diagnostic tool. Seek prompt medical attention if you have health concerns.