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Hot Flashes: Symptoms, Causes, and Relief

Definitinon Facts about Hot Flashes

  • A hot flash is a feeling of warmth spreading throughout the body that is often most pronounced in the head and neck areas. Hot flashes are typically brief (lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes) and are sometimes associated with redness of the skin (flushing) and/or perspiration.
  • Hot flashes are a common symptom of the menopausal transition in women.
  • The majority of women in the menopausal transition experience hot flashes, but not all women approaching menopause will have hot flashes.
  • Hot flashes may be accompanied by other symptoms including night sweats, palpitations, flushing (redness) of the skin, and excessive sweating.
  • Hormone therapy (HT) has been used to manage hot flashes in women experiencing these symptoms related to menopause.
  • Other types of prescription medications, including SSRIs, have also been used with some success in controlling hot flashes.
  • Hot flashes can also occur as a result of certain uncommon medical conditions.
  • Hot flashes related to menopause are not preventable but can be controlled and relieved by medications and lifestyle measures.

What Are Hot Flashes?

  • A hot flash is a feeling of warmth spreading throughout the body that is often most pronounced in the head and neck areas.
  • Hot flashes are typically brief (lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes) and are sometimes associated with redness of the skin (flushing) and/or perspiration.
  • Hot flashes are a common symptom of the menopausal transition in women, but not all women approaching menopause will have hot flashes.
  • A majority of women in the menopausal transition experience hot flashes.
  • Hot flashes can also occur as a result of certain uncommon medical conditions.

What Do Hot Flashes Feel Like?

Hot flashes often begin before any menstrual changes suggestive of menopause develop, so hot flashes may appear even years prior to the actual menopause. Hot flashes always involve the sensation of heat, but other symptoms may also be associated as follows:

  • An uncomfortable, diffuse feeling of warmth throughout the body, that is often most severe in the head and neck areas, is characteristic of hot flashes.
  • Flushing (redness) of the skin may occur.
  • Excessive sweating, including night sweats, can accompany hot flashes.
  • Palpitations (unpleasant sensations of irregular and/or forceful beating of the heart) may sometime accompany hot flashes.
  • Chills and shivering can occur following a hot flash.

The symptoms of a hot flash typically develop suddenly, without warning, and last from less than one minute to several minutes.

What Causes Hot Flashes?

The exact cause of the hot flashes is not fully understood, but the declining estrogen levels that occur as a woman approaches menopause are thought to play a role. A disorder in thermoregulation (methods the body uses to control and regulate body temperature) is responsible for the sensation of heat, but the exact way in which hormone levels affect heat regulation is not well understood.

While hot flashes are typically associated with the menopause in women, certain uncommon medical conditions can also lead to hot flashes and disorders of the body's ability to regulate temperature. One example is the carcinoid syndrome, which occurs due to a type of endocrine tumor that secretes large amounts of the hormone serotonin. Hot flashes can also develop as a side effect of some medications and can sometimes occur in association with severe infections or cancers.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/29/2017
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Hot Flashes (Menopause):

Hot Flashes - Diagnosis

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Hot Flashes - Herbals and Supplements

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Hot Flashes - Prescription Medications

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Hot Flashes - Bioidentical Hormone Therapy

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9 Signs and Symptoms of Menopause

  1. Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause.
  2. Urinary incontinence and burning on urination
  3. Vaginal changes may cause vaginal dryness, which leads to pain during intercourse.
  4. Breast changes changes like changes in the shape of the breasts or breast pain.


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