The most common cause of hot flashes is menopause and, in turn, hot flashes are the most common symptom of a woman’s transition out of her childbearing years. Sometimes hot flashes last only a few years after you reach menopause, but it’s possible for them to last 10 years or more.
The intensity of these internal thermostat failures also varies widely. Some women may have night sweats that they barely notice while others experience major disruptions to their daily lives as well as their sleep patterns, which may also be disrupted in other ways by menopause.
When hot flashes burn out of control, schedule an appointment with our menopause specialists at Southeast Urogyn. There are effective solutions for hot flashes, although sometimes we must balance treatments against your other health needs. There are even lifestyle changes you can try at home.
The loss of estrogen
As you move into perimenopause and menopause, your ovaries slow the production of estrogen, changing the overall balance of hormones in your body.
The reasons this imbalance causes hot flashes aren’t fully understood, but it’s thought that the hypothalamus, your body’s thermostat, becomes hypersensitive to temperature.
While common, hot flashes aren’t universal. Some risk factors seem to be in play, including:
- Being overweight — there’s a connection between body mass index and hot flash frequency
- Race — Black women report hot flashes the most, Asian women the least
- Smoking — cigarettes increase your chances of having hot flashes
Not every case of hot flashes stems from menopause. They can result from a medication side effect, thyroid problems, some cancers, or cancer treatments.
Controlling hot flashes
Losing weight and kicking the smoking habit are two obvious solutions that may help, though they won’t likely provide short-term results. A strategy that may reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes is trigger avoidance.
Your hypothalamus might be overreacting to your body temperature, perceiving that you’re already too warm and starting a hot flash to help cool you down. Staying cool can help break this cycle.
Consider changes like lowering the temperature of your bedroom at night and layering bedding for fast temperature adjustment. Running a fan not only keeps you cool, it also adds a white noise element that could help with other sleep issues.
Dress in layers through the day so you can adjust for comfort, and add a portable battery-operated fan to cool quickly when a hot flash strikes. Food and drink can also trigger hot flashes. Caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods can all scramble your internal thermostat.
When home solutions can’t provide sufficient relief, our urogynecologists, can help. Hormone therapy remains the most effective way to get hot flashes under control.
We recommend bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) as the safest way to rebalance your estrogen levels to limit the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Some women can’t receive BHRT for medical reasons. There are other drugs available if this applies to you.
Hot flashes aren’t the only symptom of menopause. Learn more about the best ways to handle your individual response by consulting with our experts at Southeast Urogyn. Call our office in Flowood or Madison, Mississippi, directly or request an appointment time from this website today.