Pelvis | Gynecology | Hot flashes (Disease)
A hot flash is a feeling of warmth spreading throughout the body that is often most pronounced in the head and neck areas. Hot flashes are typically brief (lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes) and are sometimes associated with redness of the skin (flushing) and/or perspiration. Hot flashes are a common symptom of the menopausal transition in women, but not all women approaching menopause will have hot flashes. About 75% of women in the menopausal transition experience hot flashes. Hot flashes can also occur as a result of certain uncommon medical conditions.
The exact cause of the hot flashes is not fully understood, but the declining estrogen levels that occur as a woman approaches menopause are thought to play a role. A disorder in thermoregulation (methods the body uses to control and regulate body temperature) is responsible for the sensation of heat, but the exact way in which hormone levels affect heat regulation is not well understood.
While hot flashes are typically associated with the menopause in women, certain uncommon medical conditions can also lead to hot flashes and disorders of the bodys ability to regulate temperature. One example is the carcinoid syndrome, which occurs due to a type of endocrine tumor that secretes large amounts of the hormone serotonin. Hot flashes can also develop as a side effect of some medications and can sometimes occur in association with severe infections or cancers.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The most effective treatment for hot flashes is estrogen, but taking this hormone can increase your risk of developing other health problems in the future. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs also may help reduce hot flashes. Discuss the pros and cons of various treatment plans with your doctor. If hot flashes dont interfere with your life, you may need no treatment at all. For most women, hot flashes fade gradually within a few years.
Many women have turned to a variety of dietary supplements to help curb hot flashes, sometimes with the mistaken belief that natural products can cause no harm. All supplements have potentially harmful side effects, and supplements can also interact with medications youre taking for other medical conditions. Always review what youre taking with your doctor.
Dietary supplements commonly used for menopause symptoms include:
Plant estrogens. Women in Asian countries, where soy is a regular part of the diet, are less likely to report hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms than are women in other parts of the world. One reason might be related to ingestion of estrogen-like compounds in soy, red clover and many other plants. However, studies giving soy to women with hot flashes have generally found no benefit. The supplement can increase the effectiveness of blood-thinning medications, which can cause bleeding problems.