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What to Do for Women Whose Hot Flashes Returned After Menopause

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: BStone • updated: 5/20/2011

Hot flashes returned? Hot flashes do not only occur among menopausal women; in fact, those in the perimenopausal and postmenopausal period can experience hot flashes. Learn more about the reason why hot flashes return after menopause, as well as the treatment options available for this condition.

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    Overview

    Harper Lee Nov07 Menopause symptoms include moodiness, muscle weakness, fatigue and hot flashes. These symptoms usually disappear as the body adjusts to the changes in hormone levels, and as a positive response to medications intended to alleviate menopause symptoms. But there may be instances when hot flashes will have returned after menopause, and this can be quite bothersome to someone experiencing it. The decline in estrogen levels is not always the cause of hot flashes; spicy foods, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, hot weather, obesity, emotional upset and stress are among the culprits for the recurring hot flashes.

    There are several treatment options available for hot flashes. Hormone replacement therapy is the most common treatment, although this poses a number of side effects such as an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. A change in lifestyle, keeping an ideal weight and avoiding foods that cause a rise in body temperature can also prevent incidences of hot flashes. And lastly, there are medications that are found to bring relief. These drugs however, should be taken only upon consultation with a doctor.

    Learn more about the reasons why hot flashes return after menopause, as well as treatment options and home remedies for hot flashes.

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    Causes of Hot Flashes

    Dr. Fredi Kronenberg, a physiologist and a leading expert in menopausal hot flashes, defines hot flashes as "recurrent, transient periods of flushing, sweating, and a sensation of heat". She claimed that women experience this symptom for a short period or for a number of years. In her study, she has observed that the highest prevalence of hot flashes occur during the first two years of postmenopause. In relation to her study, the Massachusetts Women's Health Study revealed that the "incidence of hot flashes varied to ten percent during the perimenopausal period to about fifty percent just after menopause" (source: Varney's Midwifery, Fourth Edition). Thus, hot flashes can occur at any time and period in a woman's life, even after she has reached menopause.

    For women who are beyond their menopausal stage, recurring hot flashes are likely due to:

    • Obesity or being underweight

    Obese women have a low tolerance of hot weather because of extra layers of adipose tissue, and this can trigger incidences of hot flashes. On the other hand, underweight women tend to have a decreased production of estrogen because of their low body mass index.

    • Stress

    When one is stressed, an increase in neuroendocrine substances (epinephrine and norepinephrine) occurs and they are released into the blood stream. This release has a direct effect on the thermoregulation at the level of the hypothalamus, a gland located in the brain. The hypothalamus acts as the body's thermostat, and stress can cause a rise in body temperature as caused by the hypothalamus.

    • Spicy foods

    Meals that contain hot pepper or capsaicin can stimulate nerve endings, causing the blood vessels in the brain to dilate. This dilation results in an increased body temperature.

    • Hot weather

    Hot weather causes the body's temperature to rise. Hot flashes occur as the body's natural way of getting rid of the heat.

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    Treatment Options for Hot Flashes

    Simply put, hot flashes occur when the body's temperature suddenly rises, as a result of hot weather, stress, emotional upset and eating spicy foods. Thus, avoiding these precipitating factors can prevent one from having incidences of hot flashes. However, in cases of excruciating and disrupting episodes of hot flashes, medication may be prescribed by a doctor. Among the common medication and treatment options are the following:

    Antidepressants

    Given in low doses, antidepressants can decrease incidences of hot flashes, as they inhibit the release of neuroendocrine substances in the bloodstream. Brand names of antidepressants such as Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, Praxil, and Pristiq are known to relieve hot flashes. However, these medications are not as effective as hormone replacement therapy, and side effects may also be experienced by some patients that take these drugs.

    Gabapentin (Neurontin)

    This drug was originally intended to treat seizures and pain that is associated with shingles. Effective in treating various types of pain, some doctors also prescribe this medication to women that experience hot flashes, particularly night sweats.

    Clonidine

    Typically, this pill is used to treat high blood pressure, but it is also found to be effective in relieving hot flashes. However, various side effects such as constipation, dizziness, drowsiness and dry mouth are associated with this drug, making it the least popular choice in treating hot flashes.

    Dietary supplements

    Herbal medicines such as black cohosh, soy and red clover are found to provide relief from hot flashes in women. However, caution must be practiced when taking these supplements as they might counteract with the medications one is already taking.

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    Conclusion

    Women may experience incidences of hot flashes returned even after menopause. This condition is caused by precipitating factors such as stress, obesity and spicy foods. That is why it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. You can also consult a doctor for proper medication in order to prevent incidences of hot flashes that can be quite disruptive and uncomfortable.

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    Resources

    Jelovsek, Frederick, MD, "Hot Flashes in the Absence of Menopause: Other Explanations," http://www.wdxcyber.com/nmood12.htm

    Hot Flashes: Treatments and Drugs, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hot-flashes/DS01143/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/suzanne88