Menopause is that period in a woman’s reproductive life when she experiences a marked reduction in oestrogen and progesterone production. This usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, with an average age of onset at approximately 50 years old.
While the telltale signs of menopause are commonly the skipping of one or more periods or there are distinct changes in one’s menstrual cycle (such as shorter periods with heavier bleeding than before or longer periods but with less bleeding), the one symptom that most women experience is HOT FLUSHES or HOT FLASHES.
How Hot Flushes Develop
Hot flushes develop as a result of the hormonal fluctuations and changes that occur in a woman’s body. They also develop due to the signals being transmitted from the hypothalamus, which becomes more sensitive to even the slightest changes in body temperature.
It is estimated that more than 75 percent of women develop hot flushes when they become menopausal. Twenty-five percent of these women will experience hot flushes for five years or more.
Women who are at greater risk of developing hot flushes are the following…
- Overweight and obese = women with a high Body Mass Index (BMI) experience more occurrences of hot flushes
- Ethnicity = There are greater incidences of hot flushes among African-American women compared to those of European descent. Hot flushes are also less common in Asian women.
Factors that Trigger Hot Flushes
There are certain factors that may trigger the abrupt appearance of hot flushes, and they include the following…
- Hot weather
- Being in a hot environment, like a spa or sauna
- Eating spicy foods
- Drinking hot or warm drinks, particularly coffee and other caffeinated beverages
- Wearing warm clothing
How Do You Know if You Are Having Hot Flushes
Hot flushes usually start in the head and/or the upper body. There is the unpleasant sensation of heat building up in the head, causing also your cheeks to become flushed or turn red, before spreading down to your face, neck and trunk. While most cases of hot flushes occur during at night, it can develop at any time during the day.
Other signs and symptoms of hot flushes include the following…
- Perspiration that starts on your face then down to your upper body
- Interrupted sleep
- Sudden cold feeling as the hot flush passes
There is a reported link between hot flushes and the increased risk of bone loss and heart disease.
How to Manage Hot Flushes
In women who are particularly bothered by hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause, the definitive treatment is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). However, while HRT through the giving of a small oral dose of oestrogen daily is the most effective treatment, doctors are wary of prescribing this for a long term because of the increased risk for breast cancer. In addition, there are unpleasant side effects, including fluid retention, nausea, and tenderness in the breasts.
Thankfully, there are alternative treatments that women can turn to in order to alleviate the discomforts caused by hot flushes. These alternative treatments include…
- Phyto-oestrogens, like black cohosh
- Evening primrose oil
- Vitamin E
- Antidepressants, like Prozac
- Bio-Identical Hormones = these are hormones manufactured in a laboratory which have the same molecular structures as natural hormones.
Any woman who is suffering from hot flushes should not bear the discomfort in silence. It is important that medical attention be sought out in order for the proper treatment to be initiated.