A hot flash is a sudden sensation of intense body heat, often
with profuse sweating and reddening of the head, neck, and chest. These
symptoms can be accompanied by mild to severe heart palpitations, anxiety,
irritability and, in rare cases, panic.
Hot flashes are the most
common symptom of a woman's changing estrogen levels around the time of
menopause. They strike unexpectedly, often at night, and usually last several
seconds to minutes. Hot flashes:
Affect some women during perimenopause, when
estrogen levels are changing.
Most commonly affect women during
the first 1 to 2 years after menopause, when estrogen levels have dropped below
a certain point. Women who become menopausal from chemotherapy, from surgical
removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) during hysterectomy, or from antiestrogen
treatment for breast cancer are especially likely to have severe hot
Continue to affect some women for 5 years or more after
Can happen normally during stress or embarrassment for
women of all ages.
Hot flashes are less commonly caused by thyroid problems,
cancers, and psychological stress. Men commonly have hot flashes when taking
hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
Several medicines are
available to treat hot flashes.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine