Hot Flashes

Welcome to our Decision Health Guide on Hot Flashes.

This guide is designed for women who are experiencing hot flashes during menopause.

Hot flashes occur when estrogen hormone levels decrease. Hot flashes are felt by about 85% of women during the years immediately before and after menopause. They are uncomfortable, but they are not dangerous. By answering a short series of questions, you will learn about typical hot flashes and ways to help relieve them.

The information provided in our guide is intended to augment the advice from your own doctor. You should always contact you doctor's office if you think your symptoms are even a little atypical. You want to be sure that they are just hot flashes related to menopause.

Click here to review the symptoms of a typical "hot flash."

Hot flash symptoms are remarkably similar for different women. Hot flashes are more common at night. A hot flash begins all of a sudden, with a surprising sensation of heat on your face and upper chest. This feeling of heat quickly spreads to involve much more of your upper body. The sensation lasts between two and four minutes. It is caused by dilating blood vessels near to your skin surface.

Many hot flashes cause women to perspire heavily, even to the point of soaking your clothing. Because a hot flash causes you to lose heat from your skin surface, it drops your body temperature slightly. When the hot flash subsides, your body goes to work trying to restore your core temperature to normal. During this recovery time, you can experience shivering, chills, and occasionally heart palpitations (extra beats or a sensation that your heart is racing).

Hot flashes can interfere with your sleep. Because they can awaken you repeatedly at night, they can cause daytime fatigue. Hot flashes and loss of sleep can interfere with your ability to concentrate on tasks, and for some women hot flashes and loss of sleep can contribute to depression.

Fevers can cause flushing and shivering as well, so take your temperature to make sure you are dealing with hot flashes instead of a fever. A fever is never caused by a menopausal hot flash symptom. If you feel hot and your temperature taken by a thermometer is abnormally high, you are experiencing a fever, not a hot flash.

Having reviewed this description, do you think your hot flash symptoms are typical?

Yes, I am having typical hot flashes.

No, my symptoms are not typical for a hot flash.

Some events can cause symptoms that are fairly similar to a hot flash. Examples are:

- Fever

- Near-fainting (pre-syncope)

- Panic attack

- Overactive thyroid

- Reaction to alcoholic drinks

- Release of chemicals from an adrenal gland tumor or a carcinoid type tumor

- Medicine side effects from antidepressants, migraine medicines, breast cancer treatments, osteoporosis medicines, or the vitamin niacin

- Rosacea (a facial rash)

- Heat exhaustion or heat stroke

- Allergic reaction

Symptoms of feeling hot or sweaty are sometimes symptoms of a serious medical problem. Call your doctor's office for advice.

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