What Causes Hot Flashes in Post Menopause Women?

We asked Dr. Barbara Lock, co-founder of MedPie about those annoying hot flashes.

Q. I thought I was over menopause but I still get hot flashes. Why?

Hot flashes are a classic symptoms of menopause, and the cause of many sleepless nights with the covers off and the windows wide open. When the transition from from fertility to post-menopausal life happens, most women are thrilled when the hot flashes end. What is the meaning, then, of persistent hot flashes?

For better or for worse, lifestyle factors are probably not the predominant cause of hot flashes, according to work done out of the University of Washington [link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17904773 ]. So if you are overweight, drink alcohol, and get little sleep, you are probably no more or less at risk of hot flashes than if you are normal weight, abstain, and get regular sleep. Although some women find moderate relief from hormone replacement therapy (HRT), it does not eliminate hot flashes, and can increase the risk of certain hormone-responsive diseases such as breast cancer in some patients.

What does seem to predict severity of hot flashes for women is their own stage of menopause. Women who are in the so-called late transition stage or early menopause stage tend to have more severe hot flashes. A trip to the OBGYN physician can help sort out whether treatment is needed in each patient's case.

Occasionally, a woman who thinks they are having hot flashes due to menopause may actually be having them due to another type of problem entirely. Certain infectious diseases such as tuberculosis are also classically associated with hot flashes, better understood as "night sweats". A person with active tuberculosis usually also has a fever and a chronic wet-sounding cough.Certain types of medications and foods or food additives can cause hot flashes. Certain medical problems associated with the adrenal gland or they thyroid gland can sometimes produce hot flashes. And people who are under stress or having an anxiety or panic attack can also have hot flashes. If your OBGYN doctor is not sure that the hot flashes are due to menopause, because of an imperfect fit with other symptoms (such as cough, rapid heart rate, high spiking blood pressure, low blood pressure, delirium), it is probably worth seeking out your regular doctor for evaluation for uncommon causes of hot flashes. About the Author: Barbara Lock MD is Editor-in-Chief, Chief Strategist of the medical website MedPie.com LLC
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