What is a Hot Flash?
You have all heard about the “personal Summer”, “private tropical vacations” and “power surges” also known as hot flashes. A hot flash is a brief (relatively speaking) feeling of intense warmth and sometimes sweating. Hot flashes and night sweats or vasomotor symptoms occur in about 85% of women immediately before or after menopause.
Menopausal Symptoms can severely affect the level you are able to function and diminish your quality of life.
Why Do I Get Hot Flashes?
The cause of vasomotor symptoms has not been discovered by scientists and researchers. Some theories suggest that the drop in the body’s level of female hormones called estrogens may be the reason for vasomotor symptoms. This hormonal drop affects an area of the brain, called the hypothalamus, that regulates body temperature.
When the hypothalamus senses that your body is too hot (even when it is not hot), it tells the body to release the excess heat and that is when you get a hot flash or night sweat. One way the body releases the perceived heat is to widen (dilate) blood vessels, especially those near the skin. Once the blood vessels return to normal size, you feel cool again.
Hot Flashes Before Menopause
Even though natural menopause usually occurs around age 51, a woman may begin experiencing vasomotor symptoms as early as 2 to 3 years before her last menstrual period. A small percentage of women never experience hot flashes but others may have vasomotor symptoms lasting for 6 months to as long as 15 years or longer after the final period. The average is two years. You may have a few episodes a year, while others may have as many as 20 episodes a day.
Hot flashes may also occur because of surgical menopause (removal of ovaries), taking medications that lower estrogen levels in women as well as a sudden drop in testosterone level in men.
Estrogen Utilization in Relieving Hot Flashes
In women, Estrogen is the most effective medication available to relieve hot flashes. There are several options available for short-term use and low-dose estrogen therapy to help you with your hot flashes. Studies show that topical Estrogen therapy may be safer than oral estrogen. Estradiol pills, patches, gels and sprays are commercially available forms of estrogen.
Compounded Estrogen Creams formulated by a compounding pharmacist who specializes in Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy or BHRT have become more popular in the recent decade or two. These compounded hormone creams are custom made based on your specific and individual needs, symptoms, risk factors and lab results.
In more than 95% of women, the use of low-dose estrogen medication is effective in treating hot flashes even though it may take two to four weeks of treatment before improvement is noticeable.