What Do Hot Flashes Feel Like?
What Can I Do About Them?
Hot flash symptoms are very common during menopause and about 80% of (western) women experience them in one form or another.
A hot flash is a vasomotor symptom. It is the body’s defense response to a false “it is way too hot in here” message. The central nervous system reacts to this false message and lowers the core body temperature through perspiration and by expanding the blood vessels – a hotflash.
Here you will find out what hot flashes feel like. At the end of the page you can go to the information about how to stop hot flashes. Alternatively you can check out the information about their causes first and then go to the treatments. Just follow the links at the end of page.
So let’s talk about hot flash symptoms. You probably want to know if they are“normal” or if it is time to see a healthcare professional.
Intensity and Frequency
Hot flashes (or medically speaking “Vasomotor symptoms”) vary for each woman and you may have several flashes in one day or just a few each week.
How often you experience them depends on such factors as:
- cultural background
- body weight
- habits such as smoking
- and a lot of other factors.
You can influence some of those factors but certainly not all.
The intensity and frequency of hot flashes changes often over time based on your stage of menopause.
Hotflashes start with occasional episodes as one of the pre-menopause symptoms. They occur in about 40% of women in their forties who still have a regular period. They increase over the course of perimenopause and are at their worst for the first 2 – 3 years of the postmenopausal period.
After menopause, hot flash symptoms normally decrease gradually as your body adjusts to the “new normal” of lower hormone levels.
5 years after the last period, only about 25% of postmenopausal women still have them. A small portion of women still have hotflashes after they hit 65 years of age.
However that means about 7 – 10 years of misery for the majority of women that are unfortunately enough to experience “power surges”.
What Do Hot Flashes Feel Like?
Feelings of intense heat, sometimes all over the body, sometimes just in the upper body or the face is the main hot flash symptom. It is common for the symptoms to start in the torso and then to radiate outward. But the heat can also start in the feet and move up or start in the head in the head and move down.
Some women start flushing (red or blushing faces and necks) but not all women have this sign. (The term “Hot Flush” describes this phenomenon). Even the flushing differs among the sufferers. Some have a slight blushing over the face, others have red, blotchy skin on face, neck and upper chest.
Perspiration can be intense, especially at night(night sweats). Sweating can be so bad that you have to change clothes or sheets. Some women experience excessive sweating regularly, others perspire hardly at all, while most women fall somewhere in between.(When my hot flash symptoms were at their peek, I commonly escaped to the guest bedroom for a dry bed in the middle of the night.)
Sleep problems and fatigue, both common during menopause, are at least partially caused by night sweats.
At the end of a hotflash attack, which can last from under a minute to half an hour, women can feel cold and get chills all over. The chills are caused by the body’s reaction to bring the body temperature back to normal because of the cooling effect of perspiration.
Increased Heartbeat – Irregular Pulse
Often women experience an increasing heartbeat and irregular pulse during a hotflash.
Symptoms can also include heart palpitations, which can trigger intense anxiety (anxiety attack).
Weakness – Faintness – Dizziness
Feelings of weakness, faintness or dizziness may or may be part of your symptoms.
But even outside of a hot flash attack, this is a common symptom of menopause.
Your hotflash symptoms may or may not fall into any of the patterns we have described above. If you have any concerns, or experience symptoms that do not even come close to the descriptions above, see your health care professional. Hotflashes can be symptoms for several conditions, not just for menopause.