What is hot flashes?
Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. Your skin may redden, as if you’re blushing. Hot flashes can also cause profuse sweating and may leave you chilled.
Although other hormonal conditions can cause them, hot flashes most commonly are due to menopause — the time when a woman’s menstrual periods stop. In fact, hot flashes are the most common symptom of the menopausal transition. How often hot flashes occur varies from woman to woman, but usually the range is from one or two a day to one an hour.
How common is hot flashes?
Hot flashes is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of hot flashes?
The common symptoms of hot flashes are:
- A sudden feeling of warmth spreading through your upper body and face;
- A flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin;
- Rapid heartbeat;
- Perspiration, mostly on your upper body;
- Feeling chilled as the hot flash subsides.
Hot flashes vary in frequency — you may have few or many in a day — and each hot flash usually subsides in a few minutes. They’re particularly common at night. Most women who experience hot flashes have them for more than a year, but they usually stop on their own within four to five years.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes hot flashes?
The exact cause of hot flashes cannot be identified, but it’s likely related to several factors. These include changes in reproductive hormones and in your body’s thermostat (hypothalamus), which becomes more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature.
Medications and Foods You Consume:
- Hot flashes may be a side effect of some prescription medications. Raloxifene (Evista), commonly prescribed for osteoporosis, and tamoxifen (Tamoxifen and Nolvadex), a treatment for breast cancer, may cause skin flushing and hot flashes. Hot flashes may be a side effect of chemotherapy too. You may also feel flushed after taking tramadol, a prescription pain reliever. However, this side effect is rare.
- Some over-the-counter medications can also cause symptoms that mimic those of menopause-related hot flashes. Check the labels of all medications you take. Also, be sure to discuss symptoms with your doctor.
- Certain spicy foods — particularly hot peppers — are a common culprit too. Foods that pack a fiery punch can dilate blood vessels and stimulate nerve endings. These biological changes create a feeling of extreme heat. Alcohol, for some people, also has an effect similar to hot flashes. This response can develop at any point in a person’s life.
Stress and emotional Causes: Your body may release the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine when you’re stressed out, nervous, or upset. These hormones pump up blood flow and produce a warming sensation throughout the body. Similar to blushing, “flushing” can result from a wide variety of factors — from stress to spinal cord lesions and migraine headaches. Flushing causes entire sections of your body to turn red and feel extremely warm. However, flushing is simply an allergic skin reaction to food or environmental elements that’s not related to stress.
Health causes of hot flashes: Hot flashes can be hormonal, even when they’re not related to menopause or perimenopause (the transitional period from regular menstruation to menopause).
What increases my risk for hot flashes?
There are many risk factors for Hot Flashes, such as:
- Smoking: Women who smoke are more likely to get hot flashes.
- Obesity: A high body mass index (BMI) is associated with a higher frequency of hot flashes.
- Physical inactivity: If you don’t exercise, you may be more likely to have hot flashes during menopause.
- Ethnicity: More African-American women report menopausal hot flashes than do women of European descent. Hot flashes are less common in women of Japanese and Chinese descent than in white European women.
Not all women who go through menopause have hot flashes. It’s not clear why only some women get hot flashes.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hot flashes diagnosed?
Your doctor can usually diagnose hot flashes based on a description of your symptoms. To confirm the cause of your hot flashes, your doctor may suggest blood tests to check whether you’re in menopausal transition.
How is hot flashes treated?
The most effective treatment for hot flashes is estrogen, but taking this hormone can increase your risk of developing other health problems. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs also may help reduce hot flashes.
Discuss the pros and cons of various treatments with your doctor. If hot flashes don’t interfere with your life, you may not need treatment. For most women, hot flashes fade gradually within a few years.
Hormone therapy: Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones used to reduce hot flashes. Women who have had a hysterectomy can take estrogen alone. But if you still have a uterus, you should take progesterone along with estrogen to protect against cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer). A combination drug of bazedoxifene with conjugated estrogens (Duavee) has been approved for treatment of menopausal symptoms. This drug may avoid the increased risk of cancer, but more study is needed. Estrogen therapy is not a good option if you’ve ever had a blood clot or breast cancer.
Antidepressants: Low doses of certain antidepressants may decrease hot flashes. Examples include Venlafaxine (Effexor XR, Pristiq), Paroxetine (Brisdelle, Paxil, Pexeva), Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem). Brisdelle is the only antidepressant medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating hot flashes. But, it’s expensive compared with generic formulations. The other drugs and formulations are prescribed off-label. Antidepressants aren’t as effective as hormone therapy for severe hot flashes, but they can be helpful to women who can’t or don’t want to use hormones. Possible side effects include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, weight gain, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, suicidality and a withdrawal syndrome if the medicines are abruptly stopped. Some side effects may decrease over time or with an adjustment to the dose. If you have suicidal thoughts while taking one of these medications, seek medical help immediately.
Other prescription medications: Other medications that may offer relief for some women include
- Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise): Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication that’s moderately effective in reducing hot flashes. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness and headaches.
- Clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay, others): Clonidine, a pill or patch typically used to treat high blood pressure, may provide some relief from hot flashes. Side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth and constipation.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hot flashes?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hot flashes:
- Keep cool: Slight increases in your body’s core temperature can trigger hot flashes. Dress in layers so that you can remove clothing when you feel warm. Open windows or use a fan or air conditioner. Lower the room temperature, if you can. If you feel a hot flash coming on, sip a cold drink.
- Watch what you eat and drink: Hot and spicy foods, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol can trigger hot flashes. Learn to recognize your triggers and avoid them.
- Relax: Some women find relief from mild hot flashes through meditation; slow, deep breathing; or other stress-reducing techniques. Even if these approaches don’t quell your hot flashes, they may provide other benefits, such as easing sleep disturbances that tend to occur with menopause.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is linked to increased hot flashes. By not smoking, you may reduce hot flashes, as well as your risk of many serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
- Lose weight: If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight might help ease your hot flashes.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Non-Menopausal Hot Flashes: What's Your Mystery Cause? http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/hot-flash-causes#Overview1. Accessed November 6, 2016
Alternative Treatments for Hot Flashes of Menopause. http://www.medicinenet.com/alternative_treatments_for_hot_flashes/article.htm. Accessed November 6, 2016
Hot flashes. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/basics/definition/con-20034883. Accessed November 6, 2016
Review Date: December 8, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019