Though the path to menopause is inevitable, what’s behind the door once you get there differs for each woman. Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause, with approximately 75% of women experiencing them in the years leading up to it. Hot flash symptoms can be a minor annoyance or go all the way to significantly disrupting. It’s possible to better control them by learning what precisely hot flashes are and why they happen.

The “What” and “Why” of Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are a chain reaction set off by the hypothalamus when it senses the body is too warm. The blood vessels on the skin’s surface enlarge, increasing blood flow to disperse body heat and cool it down. As a result, the face and neck redden, and the woman may also sweat profusely to cool the body down.

Hot flashes are the result of hormone fluctuations impacting the regulation of the hypothalamus before and during menopause. The hypothalamus is a gland that regulates body temperature. How the hormone surges change its functioning isn’t fully understood.

Restoring Control

Hot flashes are brief, but how often they reoccur is the challenge. Some women adjust to their hot flashes and don’t require further intervention. On the other hand, there is a small percentage who experience them more frequently and more severely. They can happen so often that they impact sleep and interfere with daily functions and interactions. Lifestyle changes, low-risk coping techniques, and medication therapies are the main ways hot flashes are managed.

  • Lifestyle Changes:
    • taking steps to cool yourself down:
      • Dressing in removable layers
      • Drinking cold beverages and keeping a portable fan on hand
    • Avoiding food and drinks that can trigger hot flashes:
      • Alcohol
      • Caffeine
    • Quit smoking
    • Losing weight
    • Eating healthy and routinely exercising
  • Low-Risk Coping Techniques:
    • Meditation
    • Stress management and relaxation strategies
  • Medications:

Hot flashes can also be symptoms of other medical conditions such as thyroid disease, infection, or in rare cases, cancer. So even if your symptoms aren’t bothersome, talking with your doctor may help identify if there’s an underlying cause.

Adding More Certainty to the Future of Hot Flashes

Although there’s nothing you can do to stop your menopause journey, women experiencing hot flashes can support the progression of improving options for patients. Whether you’re frustrated with or unable to benefit from current hot flash options, you may benefit from getting involved in clinical research studies.

Don't allow hot flashes to hold you back

Find out more information about current enrolling hot flash studies at Women’s Healthcare Research by calling us at (858) 505-8672 or visiting our website.

References:

https://goop.com/wellness/health/a-beginners-guide-to-hot-flashes/

https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-faqs-hot-flashes