Hot flashes are a sudden sensation of heat, usually particularly intense on the face and neck, and may be accompanied by flushing and sweating. Hot flushes are the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, occurring in about two-thirds of women during perimenopause and in almost all women (to varying degrees) during menopause. Most women who experience hot flushes have them for 1-5 years.
The cause of the hot flashes is not fully understood, although they are probably related to the fluctuating levels of oestrogen associated with the age-related cessation of menstruation. It is suspected that these fluctuating hormone levels affect the hypothalamus’ ability to regulate body temperature.
Most women experience hot flashes as a sudden sensation of heat or intense heat that spreads to the upper body and leads to a flushed appearance with red and blotchy skin, rapid heart rate and increased sweating, ending in chills as the hot flash subsides. Women experience hot flushes intermittently, 3-4 times a day or almost hourly. In addition, night sweats, a manifestation of hot flashes during sleep, can occur throughout the night, causing chronic insomnia and fatigue. Many women have memory and concentration problems, and some experience anxiety and depression as a result of insomnia.
Many factors increase the likelihood of hot flashes during menopause. Smoking, obesity and lack of exercise all increase the likelihood of hot flushes. Other triggers include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing, heat and stress. In addition, ethnicity can play a role. It has been reported that African-American women have more hot flashes than European women, and Asian-American women have significantly fewer hot flashes than other groups.
Although hormone therapy is the generally recommended solution for women whose hot flashes severely interfere with normal life, there are many potential side effects associated with the use of estrogen and progesterone supplements, including an increased risk of endometrial cancer. The Mayo Clinic, a US hospital, has recently moved to recommend alternative therapies such as relaxation techniques (such as yoga, or chi and qi gong), hypnosis and acupuncture as alternatives to hormone therapy or drugs. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been effective treatments for menopausal symptoms for hundreds of years.
Meridian Care specialises in treating women’s health through acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Contact us to find out how we can help relieve the symptoms associated with menopause.
– Chantal Hellevig