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What are hot flashes?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

A hot flash is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. You’ll feel your body heat up, and you’ll get a red, flushed face and sweat a lot. This can last a few minutes or longer. Women in menopause or perimenopause can get several hot flashes a day, or several a month. Hot flashes also happen at night (they're called night sweats).

The cause of hot flashes in unknown, although most researchers believe they are related to the normal reduction in your production of the hormone estrogen. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol, exercising regularly, and practicing relaxation techniques may help reduce hot flashes. Up to 80% of all women will experience hot flashes and sometimes night sweats during perimenopause. The hot flashes have been found to last as long as an average of 7.4 years for women who report frequent flashes.

Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause; 60-85 percent of menopausal women experience them. Hot flashes can disturb sleep and often result in frequent awakening. Hot flashes usually begin with a flushed sensation and a sudden feeling of heat from the waist that moves up to the chest, neck and face. Accompanying symptoms include perspiration, palpitations, vertigo, nausea, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, weakness and night sweats. Hot flashes last an average of 4 minutes, although they may last as long as 20 minutes. Hot flashes can be infrequent or as often as 15 times per day.

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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.