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Gynecology Services


Hot Flashes

Hot Flashes/Night Sweats

Hot flashes and night sweats, also known as vasomotor instability, are terms referring to an abrubt change in body temperature due to destabilization of a membrane in the brain. The term "hot flash" refers to a sudden flush of heat, usually accompanied by other symptoms such as anxiety. The term "night sweat' refers to the sensation of sudden heat with sweating at night that causes one to awaken from sleep, usually accompanied by the removal of the covering sheet/blanket, and possibly necessitating a change in clothing.

These symptoms can be related to a decrease in estrogen in one's system, and is most common around the time of menopause. However, other times that these symptoms are noted are while nursing, and possibly cyclically around the time of ovulation or around the time of the period. Some diseases also can cause smptoms similar to hot flashes, such as low blood sugar or thyroid disease. Change in medications, such as SSRIs like Prozac and Paxil, increased intake of certain foods in the diet such as caffeine and alcohol, and elevated stress levels can also cause vasomotor symptoms.

A proper history by your healthcare professional, along with an exam, urine tests, and blood tests can help diagnose the cause of the hot flashes/night sweats. Treatments vary depending on the individual patient; milder symptoms might be alleviated by a change in specific foods in the diet, exercise, relaxation/mediatation techniques, or over-the-counter medications such as progesterone creams or black cohosh. For more moderate-to-severe symptoms, hormonal therapies may provide the fastest relief of symptoms. Other medical options include some antidepressants and couple older blood pressure medications. All of these medical options have inherent risks along with benefits. It is important to go over all of these options with your provider in order to decide which treatment would be best for you.