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Hot Flashes

Q: What are hot flashes?

Dr. Donnica:
Hot flashes are the most common menopausal symptom reported by American women.  A hot flash is a sudden sensation of intense heat over the upper body, arms and face followed by skin flushing in these areas and profuse sweating.  Anywhere from one half to two thirds of menopausal women report hot flashes. . .which means that at least one third of menopausal women either don't have them or aren't bothered by them.  For women who do have them, hot flashes are associated with sleep distrubances, fatigue, irritability and forgetfulness as well as physical discomfort, social embarrassment, changes in sexual interest and satisfaction, and negative effects on work performance.

Hot flashes result from decreasing or fluctuating estrogen levels that accompany menopause.  Women with hot flashes are more likely to have mothers who had hot flashes and are more likely to be smokers.

Six out of ten women report that their hot flashes are severe, yet only one to two out of ten women seek medical attention because of their hot flashes.  For those who do, estrogen replacement therapy is often recommended.  For women who can't take estrogen, other therapies are available, such as Bellergal or Clonidine.  Many women report success with alternative therapies such as black cohosh.

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Created: 12/18/2000  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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