Hot Flashes and Menopause (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
When should I seek medical care for hot flashes?
It is appropriate to contact a health-care professional if a woman is experiencing disturbing or uncomfortable hot flashes.
How is the cause of hot flashes diagnosed?
As with any medical condition or complaint, a health-care professional will begin by taking a complete medical history. He or she will ask the woman to describe the hot flashes, including how often and when they occur, and if there are other associated symptoms. A physical examination will be used to help direct further testing if necessary.
Blood tests may be performed if the diagnosis is unclear, either to measure hormone levels or to look for signs of other conditions (such as infection) that could be responsible for the hot flashes.
What about hormone or estrogen therapy for hot flashes?
Estrogens or a combination of estrogens and progesterone (progestin) have been shown to significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.
However, long-term studies (the NIH-sponsored Women's Health Initiative, or WHI) of women receiving combined hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone showed an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer when compared with women who did not receive HT. Studies with estrogen therapy alone showed that estrogen was associated with an increased risk for stroke, but not for heart attack or breast cancer. Estrogen therapy alone, however, is associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).
More recent medical research has suggested that in younger postmenopausal women, hormone therapy may not have these same risks as in the older postmenopausal women who participated in the WHI studies, and research is ongoing to determine the risks and benefits of hormone therapy in younger postmenopausal women and women around the age of menopause.
The decision regarding hormone therapy, therefore, should be individualized for each woman, recognizing her medical history, the severity of the symptoms, and the potential risks and benefits of hormone administration.
A number of non-hormonal prescription medications and alternative treatments have also been used for the treatment of hot flashes (See next section).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2016
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