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 changing estrogen levels around the time of menopause. They strike unexpectedly, often at night, and usually last several seconds to minutes. Hot flashes:
- Can happen during perimenopause. This is the time when estrogen levels are changing.
- Most often happen during the first 1 to 2 years after menopause. At this time, estrogen levels drop below a certain point. If menopause starts from chemotherapy, from surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) during hysterectomy, or from antiestrogen treatment for breast cancer, you are more likely to have severe hot flashes.
- Continue to affect some people for 5 years or more after menopause.
Hot flashes can also be caused by thyroid problems, cancers, and stress. They also can happen when taking hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
Several medicines are available to treat hot flashes.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Carla J. Herman MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine & JoLynn Montgomery PA - Family Medicine