Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her body stops menstruating. It is not an immediate process and involves many fluctuations in hormone levels. As a result, most women report a variety of physical symptoms that are directly related to their body’s entry into and passage through menopause. One of the most common symptoms reported is referred to as “hot flashes.”
While the exact cause of hot flashes is not currently known, it is believed to be related to the withdrawal from estrogen that women experience as a result of menopause. Hot flashes are characterized by rapid changes in body temperature, often accompanied by flushing of the skin. These symptoms may be experienced anywhere from several times a week or even multiple times a day.
While generally harmless, hot flashes experienced at night can often wake one from sleep. In cases of constant night flashes, insomnia may occur. The resulting sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory loss in some menopausal women. Nocturnal hot flashes are sometimes also referred to as cold sweats, because this sensation often results from experiencing hot flashes under sheets and blankets.
There are some women who go through menopause without ever experiencing hot flashes. At the same time there are women who will experience them chronically. The following risk factors may increase the odds of experiencing hot flashes: obesity, physical inactivity, ethnicity, and smoking.
In cases where hot flashes are too unbearable, there are treatments that will reduce or eliminate their occurrence. Because hot flashes likely result from a lowering of estrogen, hormone therapy is one such treatment. Certain prescription antidepressants can also lower or eliminate instances of hot flashing.
Hot flashes are very common in menopause, so most women can expect to experience them at some point in their life. It is up to each individual woman whether or not her experience with hot flashes are bad enough to warrant treatment or concern.
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