Hot flashes, one of the most common symptoms of menopause, are caused by hormonal changes taking place inside a woman’s body. Most women in fact, nearly eighty five percent of all women experience hot flashes directly before or after achieving menopause. While hot flashes are commonly associated with menopause, a small number of young women also complain of this phenomenon. Young women may experience hot flashes during their regular monthly menstrual cycle as a result of some problem with their pituitary gland.
Symptoms of Hot Flashes
Most women approaching menopause have to deal with night sweats or hot flashes for about two years. But there have been instances where women have experienced hot flashes for almost five years. The symptoms associated with this condition may vary from one woman to another. However, some of the more common symptoms of hot flashes have been revealed in this article.
One of the standard symptoms of hot flashes is intense heat. Women approaching menopause or those who have already achieved menopause may complain of a rush of heat which spreads rapidly over their upper body, face and neck. The neck and the head are the regions where the intense heat can be felt the most.
The warmth linked to night sweats vary from a mild heat to a more intense kind of heat. The intense heat is often accompanied by a feeling of pressure building up inside the head. As the intense heat sweeps across the upper torso the skin takes on a rosy hue akin to blushing.
“Once a day, I hear ‘I’m losing my hair. Is it menopause?’ ” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, Preventionadvisor and a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. There may well be a connection between dwindling estrogen levels at menopause and thinning hair, but there’s no conclusive data.
Another common symptom of hot flashes is perspiring excessively. Depending on the intensity of hot flashes a woman may experience mild sweating or she may sweat profusely. The sudden dilation of blood vessels – which are located just below the skin surface – due to flushing is what causes profuse sweating.
Bizarre or Disturbing Dreams
Many women who are going through menopause complain of bizarre or disturbing dreams. These bizarre and often vivid dreams are the result of sudden rise in body temperature accompanied by a rapidly beating heart. The unsettling dreams which are linked to hot flashes subside with the disappearance of night sweats.
Hot flashes can cause the body temperature to spike suddenly. A sudden rise in body temperature can cause profuse sweating. Excessive sweating produced during a hot flash can bring down the body temperature rapidly. This can make a woman feel chilly all over.
“I’m very depressed, and I know it’s menopause” is a complaint that Dr. Minkin hears several times a day from her patients.
We know from studies that giving estrogen to women during perimenopause (the transition to menopause during which menstrual periods become irregular and hot flashes may start) helps reduce their depression.
Other studies have suggested that estrogen improves mood in postmenopausal women who feel depressed.
A sudden dip in body estrogen levels can give rise to hot flashes. Hot flashes which can cause a sudden spike in body temperature, rapid heart beat and profuse sweating can lead to a disturbed nights’ sleep. A poor night sleep can affect a persons concentration levels. This is one the reasons why women who are experiencing hot flashes often complain of their inability to concentrate on normal every day tasks.
Panic Attacks or Extreme Anxiety
Hot flashes can increase a woman’s anxiety levels. The reason for increased levels of anxiety is because women are unable to pin point when they may suffer from another hot flash. Experiencing a hot flash bang in the middle of a dinner with close friends can give rise to an extremely embarrassing situation.
The raging hormones which accompany hot flashes can also make women become very anxious to the point of suffering a sudden panic attack.
The multitude of symptoms which are linked to hot flashes can sap a woman’s energy levels and make her feel completely exhausted. Most women feel completely drained of all energy for up to an hour after suffering a sudden hot flash.