minimize the symptoms of hot flashes

How to minimize the symptoms of hot flashes

Women's Health,

The years before and during menopause can be an especially challenging time for women. For many women, the most disturbing symptom is hot flashes. Here are some answers to help women (and men) better understand what is going on, along with treatment options.

Symptoms of a hot flash

It is a strong feeling of heat that manifests most intensely in the head and upper chest. This feeling of heat lasts typically from one to five minutes. A woman with a severe hot flash can feel like she has just worked out vigorously in a hot room with heavy clothes on. Sweating can occur, and if they occur at night, they are referred to as night sweats.

How common

About 75% of women report hot flashes in the years leading up to menopause. The intensity varies greatly among women. Some have intense symptoms (with daytime sweating), while others have barely perceptible flashes.

When do they occur

They typically start in the 40s, but can start in some women in their late 30s. This period before menopause is called perimenopause, when the function of the ovaries decreases, and the output of estrogen becomes irregular, but overall gradually decreases. Hot flashes usually stop within a year or two after menopause (defined as 12 consecutive months without menstruation) In 10% of women, they can occur for sometimes years longer. But overall, without treatment, the hot flash phase lasts an average of 7 years.

The cause

Researchers believe the cause is an upset in the thermoregulatory center in the brain, brought on by the changes in hormones secreted by the ovaries. The thermoregulatory center is like our internal thermostat. Women who have hot flashes have an overly sensitive thermostat. Any slight increase in ambient temperature, or even drinking hot liquids, can trigger this intense response in the internal thermostat.

During a hot flash, the body shunts blood from the core and internal organs to the surface. The blood vessels dilate on the skin, particularly on the upper body, felt as intense heat.


The most effective treatment is hormone replacement therapy. This treatment carries some risks, but works well for most women. The benefits and risks, and different types of hormones replacement, should be discussed with a gynecologist.

Some women have found relief from herbal remedies, meditation, or exercise, but most of the studies on these alternative treatments show that they don’t help most women.

Alternatives to hormones that have been proven helpful include antidepressant medication, or the drugs gabapentin or pregabalin.

Practical measures that help include dressing in layers, sipping cool water, and an ice pack under the pillow or at the feet during the night. Avoiding warm rooms and hot drinks is a good idea if they are triggers. A fan blowing towards the face and upper body can be a great friend. Some women report that increasing soy in their diet helps as well.

If you are a woman with hot flashes, there is help available. Discuss the options with a trusted gynecologist.

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website:

See also in ProcuraMed:

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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