Vasomotor Symptoms in Menopause
Vasomotor symptoms in menopause include hot flashes and night sweats. These are also the best-known symptoms of menopause. They are also what is known as “Vasomotor Symptoms.” Roughly 4 of 5 women that go through menopause will have vasomotor symptoms.
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How Do Vasomotor Symptoms Feel?
Hot flashes feel like a wave of “heat” that rushes through the upper chest, face, and other body parts. They often cause sweating and “flushing” in those areas. These symptoms can also include elevated heart, anxiety, palpitations, and dizziness. After a hot flash, a chill often runs through the body. Hot flashes usually last 1-2 minutes but may last up to 5 minutes.
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night. Night sweats often disrupt your sleep, and you may awaken covered in sweat. Sleeping clothes and sheets may even need to be changed.
Every woman is different, so one person’s vasomotor symptoms may differ significantly from another woman’s experience.
Hot flashes can be mild or severe, frequent or sporadic. They may be so gentle that you barely even notice them or so intense they affect your activities of daily living (ADL).
What Causes Vasomotor Symptoms in Menopause?
Doctors and endocrinologists are unsure about what causes hot flashes. Still, they think there’s a link between changing hormones and your core body temperature. During menopause, estrogen levels go down, which can affect temperature regulation. Menopausal changes may affect the body’s “internal thermostat,” making it more sensitive to small changes.
If that thermostat senses the body is too warm, it will attempt to cool it down. The veins and arteries can dilate (enlarge), causing more blood to move to the skin’s surface, releasing stored body heat.
Who Has Vasomotor Symptoms?
Not every woman that goes through menopause will experience vasomotor symptoms. However, roughly 80% of menopausal women will. Doctors have yet to understand why some women suffer from vasomotor symptoms, and some don’t. Research has found that vasomotor symptoms are more common in women who smoke, are obese, or are African American.
When Do the Symptoms Begin and Stop?
Women can experience hot flashes or night sweats anytime before, during, or after menopause. Hot flashes can also occur at regular intervals or only occasionally. Vasomotor symptoms often start at the beginning of menopause, also called perimenopause. It’s also common for hot flashes to begin shortly before women start menopause.
How long Vasomotor Symptoms last can vary. Research shows that most women (80%) will experience symptoms for two years or less.
Roughly 1 in 5 women with these symptoms will have most of their hot flashes at the beginning of their menopause. About 1 in 3 will have them after their cycles stop entirely. Some women will begin to experience hot flashes during perimenopause, and they can last for years.
Women experiencing a “mild” case of hot flashes will more often have symptoms for an extended period. It’s less common, but your hot flashes may be lifelong. Over time, they may become less intense.
How Do You Treat Vasomotor Symptoms?
Making relatively simple changes can relieve Vasomotor symptoms.
Avoid “Triggers” – Many things can trigger hot flashes. Avoiding triggers can stop hot flashes from happening or make them less intense. Common triggers for hot flashes include heat, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, tight clothing, and stress.
Keep Cool – Staying cool, especially in hot weather, is vital to managing this symptom.
- Stay inside during hot weather
- Use air conditioning to keep your bedroom cool
- Wear light, breathable clothes
- Dress in layers so you can add or subtract layers of clothing as needed
- Keep cold drinks nearby to help regulate temperature and keep yourself hydrated.
Prescription Medications – There are medications available to treat hot flashes. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a safe and effective way to treat Vasomotor Symptoms.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices. Diet, exercise, and good sleep habits can impact hot flashes’ frequency and intensity. The Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Vasomotor Symptoms. Soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils contain estrogen-like compounds that can also mitigate Vasomotor Symptoms.
Other lifestyle choices that reduce Vasomotor Symptoms include maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking (both tobacco and vaping), and practicing meditation. Meditation has many other benefits, including reducing anxiety, depression, and irritability. These practices don’t ease the symptoms themselves.
If you are experiencing Vasomotor Symptoms, BHRT can provide significant relief. Schedule a simple blood test with a provider serving patients in Arvada, Denver, and Wheat Ridge, Colorado to determine if your hormones are balanced, or take this simple FREE Female Hormone Imbalance Quiz.