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Hot Flash Basics

From the Menopause and Hormones Articles List

Hot Flashes 101I've always been on the "cold" end of the temperature gauge, and now I'm burning up! Am I having hot flashes? Is this a sign of menopause? When will they go away? And what is the difference between a hot flash and night sweats?

Yes, the hot flash is the most common symptom during perimenopause, experienced by as many as two-thirds of women. The hot flash or flush is an uncomfortably warm feeling that results from "vasomotor" changes in the body. These are changes in circulation, such as increased body temperature, heart rate, or blood flow. Typically, they're most severe during the first two years after menopause.

While hot flashes don't pose a risk to health, they can be embarrassing, even debilitating. During a hot flash, the blood vessels typically dilate, allowing greater blood flow to the skin. The skin's temperature often rises 4–8 degrees, which is why a woman blushes, sweats, or feels hot or tingly. She may also feel her heart pounding. The sensation of heat often begins on the face or chest and spreads over the rest of the body. The body's internal temperature actually falls because heat is being lost through the skin. When the hot flash is over, a woman may feel chilled.

Hot flashes usually result from low levels of the hormone estrogen, but there can be other triggers. Obese women tend to be less likely than thin women to develop hot flashes since some estrogen (estrone) is available from the body's fat tissue.

Hot flashes that occur in your sleep are called night sweats. This is not only uncomfortable—nobody likes waking up drenched in sweat—but can also leave you sleep deprived and irritable.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

04-12-2003 - 03:24 PM


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