For a lot of women, one of the major indicators of menopause is the dreaded hot flashes-not always but for a majority of women. Describing hot flashes to someone who has never experienced them can be difficult. Your body is uncontrollably and unreasonably hot, regardless of the ambient temperature of the room. When you’re going through a hot flash, you could find yourself standing inside of a giant freezer and still be sweating. In fact, more than a few menopausal women have stood in front of open freezers trying to cool down during a hot flash. Outside temperature doesn’t matter because it’s the internal sensation of temperature that is spiking. Hot flashes are sometimes called “power surges” or described as your “inner child playing with matches.” The sensation, even if you’ve never had one before, is so distinct and uncomfortable that most people instantly recognize it for what it is.
Hot Flashes can vary in both intensity and duration.
Sometimes the hot flash might be preceded by a feeling of chills. Sometimes it might be preceded by an uneasy or uncomfortable feeling that tells the peri-menopausal, menopausal woman and many post-menopausal women, that a hot flash is about to happen. Even with the awareness that a hot flash is coming, there is nothing a woman can do to prevent it once it starts.
Most women learn to laugh about it, we see media portrayals of women having hot flashes in comedies and laugh at their antics. We see these characters doing things like shoving ice down their shirts or dumping cold water over their heads and laugh. Menopause is presented to us in a comedic way, but there isn’t anything funny about a hot flash. A wave of uncomfortable heat washes over the upper body. Sometimes this heat is accompanied by a struggle to breathe, causing a feeling of near drowning or suffocating. The hot flash can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and can happen just a few times a month or 50+ times a day.
When the hot flash passes, the menopausal woman may be left flushed. Sometimes she will sweat so profusely that a change of clothing is required. Other times there may only be a little perspiration on the upper lip or fold in arm. There are no standards, which means there is no “normal.”
The primary cause of a hot flash is a hormonal change, of course, but that isn’t the only cause. Certain medications can induce hot flashes as can interrupted sleep cycles and lifestyle choices. Whatever the cause, hot flashes are a discomfort most women would like to avoid. By helping to regulate the hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause, we increase our chances of keeping hot flashes at bay. Some women will opt for a natural method of hormonal balance such as dietary choices. Others elect to work together with their physicians to find a medicinal solution. As we stated before, there is no “normal” when it comes to hot flashes – there is only the choice that is right for you to manage the discomforts.