How can hot flashes vary during menopause?

Dr. Afua Mintah, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Hot flashes can vary during menopause between women. Some women have no hot flashes at all. Some women experience mild and infrequent hot flashes. Some women have severe debilitating hot flashes that can be extremely disruptive and interfere with their quality of life.

Dr. Julia Schlam Edelman
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

The intensity and frequency of hot flashes varies dramatically between individual women. Hot flashes also vary over time for each woman as she progresses from perimenopause to postmenopause. For some women, the hot flashes come and go over days, weeks or months. Some women experience hot flashes for a brief time before the flashes disappear, never to return again. Some women get hot flashes or night sweats while they still have periods; others get them when their periods are infrequent or after they have stopped.

You may be comfortable during the day but awaken every hour or two during the night with night sweats. Night sweats are identical to hot flashes, except for their timing. It is possible to have only daytime hot flashes, only night sweats or both. Although it is not as common, some women find hot flashes troublesome for decades.

Hot flashes can come and go, without warning, over a period of days, months or years. In some women, they resolve spontaneously without any intervention; other women only find relief with treatment. Hot flashes and night sweats may be easily tolerated or debilitating. At one point, your hot flashes may be mild or infrequent, causing little or no disruption in your routine. At another time, you may suffer from intense hot flashes that recur every hour, compromising your ability to function effectively at home or work.

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

I always tell my patients that "no one can tell their girlfriend how to do menopause." While most women have hot flashes, called vasomotor symptoms, the severity varies widely. Recent research has actually identified some genes that seem related to the number and severity of hot flashes. While this is interesting, the medical application is probably limited. The most important thing is to discuss your personal vasomotor symptoms with your health clinician so you can make decisions togther about effective and safe management.

We don’t really know what causes hot flashes, so it’s difficult to say why they vary from woman to woman. Some women are extremely bothered by hot flashes to the extent that they may need medicine just to be able to get sleep and feel relief, whereas other women don’t even notice hot flashes. It’s hard to say why there is a variance, but there is a huge difference in how bothersome hot flashes may be, and for how many years they may last.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.