For most women, the end of shark week triggers something else… menopause. There is no clear start and stop for women, and in many cases, it can begin long before you bid adieu to your monthly visitor. This time before menopause is called perimenopause, and this is when your body starts sending out signals that the big show is about to begin. Some common signs are vaginal dryness, irregular periods, sleep disturbances, and the dreaded hot flashes. Not all women who experience hot flashes find them bothersome enough to seek help. For those that do, we have some tips for getting through them.
What to Expect and How to Handle It
Most women know a hot flash when they experience it, but symptoms really can vary for everyone. In general, a hot flash is a sudden rush of heat that flushes the skin (typically upper chest, neck, and face), followed by a drenching sweat that lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. Your upper body may turn red, and your heart rate may increase. If you have them at night, they are called night sweats. If they happen often enough, they can disrupt sleep causing irritability, fatigue, and forgetfulness.
On average, hot flashes last 10-15 years. They typically happen sporadically, but they can be severe enough to interfere with daily life for a small percentage of women. Using cold water and pre-treated wipes on the back of your neck can help if you feel a hot flash coming on.
When It’s Time to Treat Your Hot Flashes
The good news is, if your hot flashes are severe enough to disrupt daily life, there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can help reduce symptoms. Finding out what triggers your hot flashes can help reduce them, though, for many women, they include coffee and wine. Some medications, like blood pressure and cholesterol therapies, have been known to cause hot flashes.
Improving Treatment Options Through Research Studies
Research studies have helped to identify several treatment options for hot flashes that persist outside of lifestyle changes. Hormonal treatments with estrogen prove to be the most effective, though this option is not appropriate for every woman. Other non-hormonal options include anti-depressants, anti-seizure medications, and other effective treatments.
While there are current options for hot flash treatments, more work is needed to find options for every woman. To learn more about the hormonal and non-hormonal hot flash studies enrolling here at Women’s Healthcare Research, visit our studies page, or call (858) 505-8672.